Justice Thomas says SCOTUS should revisit defamation law after Christian ministry labeled as “hate group”

Wednesday, June 29, 2022 | Tag Cloud Tags: , ,

by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent

(Worthy News) – US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a dissent published Monday that the Court should revisit a 1964 legal precedent that set the bar for proving defamation so high it may be shielding organizations that label traditional Christian ministries as “hate groups” from liability, CBN News reports.

Thomas’ dissenting opinion was given after the Court declined to hear a suit brought by D. James Kennedy/Coral Ridge Ministries against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Coral Ridge attested in its court filing against the SPLC that the Law Center has singled it out as a “hate group” because it stands for orthodox Christian views on marriage and sexuality.

Coral Ridge states in its suit that the “hate group” label has resulted in it being subjected to “disgrace, ridicule, odium, and contempt in the estimation of the public.” Moreover, Coral Ridge said, it has suffered religious discrimination because the “hate group” label has resulted in the ministry’s exclusion from the Amazon “Smile” program.

While the Supreme Court declined to hear the Coral Ridge case without comment, Thomas issued a three-page dissent saying he “would grant certiorari” in the matter in order to revisit the ‘actual malice’ standard set down by the Court in the 1964 landmark case of New York Times v. Sullivan.

“[The 1964] case is one of many showing how New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups ‘to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity,” Thomas said.

“SPLC’s ‘hate group’ designation lumped Coral Ridge’s Christian ministry with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis. It placed Coral Ridge on an interactive, online ‘Hate Map’ and caused Coral Ridge concrete financial injury by excluding it from the AmazonSmile donation program.

Nonetheless, unable to satisfy the “almost impossible” actual-malice standard this Court has imposed, Coral Ridge could not hold SPLC to account for what it maintains is a blatant falsehood.”

“Coral Ridge now asks us to reconsider the ‘actual malice’ standard. As I have said previously, ‘we should,'” Thomas continued. “New York Times and the Court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law.

Those decisions have ‘no relation to the text, history, or structure of the Constitution…the Court should not ‘insulate those who perpetrate lies from traditional remedies like libel suits’ unless ‘the First Amendment requires us to do so, I respectfully dissent from the denial of certiorari.”

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