The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled the Liberty Counsel, the law firm representing Kim Davis in her quest to continue breaking federal law under the auspices of religious liberty, as a hate group.
Liberty Counsel is listed as an anti-gay hate group by the SPLC because of its spreading of false information, most recently last week when Mat Staver, Davis' lawyer, showed a crowd at the Value Voters Summit a photo of a filled-to-capacity Peruvian soccer stadium praying for Davis—a claim that was quickly debunked.
The Liberty Counsel's overarching ethos is also a big part of the designation, according to CBS News.
"A group that regularly portrays gay people as perverse, diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk are way, way over the line," said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the center.
Staver believes that laws against hate crimes infringe on the first amendment, and that it was "irresponsible and reckless to call someone a hate group because you disagree with them."
The Southern Poverty Law Center currently has dossiers on 44 groups, websites, and publications, including Liberty Counsel, labeling each as a hate group. This set features the white-power website Stormfront, the Westboro Baptist Church, the New Black Panther Party, the Jewish Defense League, the KKK, World Net Daily, and many others. However, the group is currently tracking 784 hate groups in the United States. The SPLC partners with the FBI in sharing information about these groups.
Civil liberties advocates from outside the SPLC also find Staver and the Liberty Counsel troubling.
"There is an enormous amount of bluster amid his legal arguments," said Barry Lynn, a minister and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who has debated Staver on religious freedom issues. "It looks to me like he's making claims that will get his clients great publicity, but not necessarily get them victories."
The people who have been most-impacted by Davis, Staver, and the Liberty Counsel agree with that assessment. In August, Fusion's John Walker interviewed David Moore and his partner, David Ermold, two men who were denied a marriage license by Davis. Moore said:
I would just say that, for us, it’s really frustrating to know that this whole ordeal has been caused by Davis’ opinion. I feel like her legal defense people, the Liberty Council, are this national activist group that has come in to try to take advantage of a situation in order to get publicity for themselves, to get donations. They even say they want to drag this out until we have elections next year.
It’s pretty disgusting that people can’t see that we, as human beings, should be afforded the same privileges that they’ve had their whole lives—that we’re not worthy of those same privileges. It’s degrading.
Staver recently told the Roanoke Times, "We hate no one. It would be contrary to my faith to hate anyone. There would be no reason to hate anyone. There’s not a hateful bone in my body.”
History seems to indicate otherwise.
In 2003, the Liberty Counsel blocked New York City's attempt to open Harvey Milk High School as a public high school exclusive for LGBTQ teens. The group has also repeatedly battled against bans on "reparative" therapy in multiple states. The firm is currently defending Scott Lively, an American pastor accused of assisting in the prosecution of the LGBTQ community in Uganda.
You can read more about Liberty Counsel's "work" on their website.
David Matthews operates the Wayback Machine on Fusion.net—hop on. Got a tip? Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org