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NRB Urges Supreme Court to Review D. James Kennedy Ministries’ Case

In December 2021, an amicus curiae brief was filed on NRB’s behalf petitioning the Supreme Court to grant a writ of certiorari in the case of Coral Ridge Ministries Media, d/b/a D. James Kennedy Ministries v. Southern Poverty Law Center. 

In 2017, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) labeled D. James Kennedy Ministries, an NRB member, as a “hate group” in response to its teaching of traditional Christian beliefs. Amazon thereafter denied DJKM continued participation in the AmazonSmile charitable giving program. That same year, D. James Kennedy Ministries filed a lawsuit against Amazon, Guidestar, and the SPLC for defamation and religious discrimination.  

“SPLC acted knowingly, intentionally, and with actual malice in publishing the Hate Map that included the ministry and in publishing the SPLC Transmissions to Guidestar that included the ministry,” D. James Kennedy Ministries’ suit said. “SPLC’s conduct in making these publications was beyond the reckless disregard for the truth standard required by Alabama law for punitive damages.” 

The suit was dismissed in September 2019 by U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson, who held that the SPLC’s labeling of DJKM as a “hate group,” regardless of accuracy, was protected under the First Amendment. Her ruling was consistent with the 2018 recommendation of federal Magistrate Judge David A. Baker to dismiss the case, holding that the ministry had not met the “actual malice” standard for defamation that the Supreme Court established in New York Times v. Sullivan 

The brief filed by NRB in December 2021 (read full brief here) addresses the disastrous practical effects of Sullivan, notes the lack of policy support for the “actual malice” standard, and presents the case as an excellent vehicle for reconsidering Sullivan 

Earlier in 2021, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch called on the court to revisit that precedent in a dissent from the denial of certiorari in Shkelzen Berisha v. Guy Lawson 

“This Court’s pronouncement that the First Amendment requires public figures to establish actual malice bears ‘no relation to the text, history, or structure of the Constitution,’” Gorsuch wrote.  

Four Supreme Court justices must vote affirmatively in order to grant a petition for certiorari and review the case. NRB continues to step forward as an amicus curiae in cases of importance to our members.  

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