The D. James Kennedy Ministries, a Christian media ministry founded in 1974 by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy as Coral Ridge Ministries, is fighting back against the Southern Poverty Law Center for putting it on the center's hate map. This legal battle could be important to Christians across America because they could be targeted as haters just for their faith.
Many people acknowledge the Southern Poverty Law Center did good work for years by targeting haters and racists like the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis. But then it took a lurch to the left, and began to put conservatives and Christians on the SPLC website's hate map.
It has happened to dozens of groups, including the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based D. James Kennedy Ministries, because it stands for traditional marriage and against radical parts of the LGBTQ agenda.
Putting Conservative Believers Right Next to Racists & Bigots
"They placed us along with about 55 or 60 other organizations on their so-called hate map," President Dr. Frank Wright told CBN News. "They put us right next to the neo-Nazis. Right next to the skinheads. Right next to the Ku Klux Klan."
So the organization sued the SPLC, losing the first round in court, but now appealing to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Ga.
"We have objected that their characterization of us as a hate group is defamatory," Wright explained.
And that characterization can even be dangerous. The ministry's video "Profits of Hate" recounts how a would-be mass killer launched a foiled terrorist attack on the conservative Family Research Council because it was on SPLC's hate map.
In the video, the FRC's Peter Sprigg said, "When he (Floyd Lee Corkins) was interrogated by the FBI, they asked him 'How did you pick your target?'"
Corkins told his interrogators, "The Southern Poverty Law lists anti-gay groups. I found them online."
In the video, the FRC's Jerry Boykin explained Corkins' motive.
"What he objected to was our stand on traditional marriage," he said.
Why This Should Worry You in the Pew
This fact should worry churches and groups all across America, because taking a stand for traditional marriage, could land them all on the hate map.
"The hate label is a game the Left plays to try to do three things: to marginalize you, to demonize you and then to criminalize you," Wright told CBN News.
The SPLC has the power to do that because legislators and law enforcement consider the SPLC as an authority on hate groups.
Wright pointed out that within the last couple of months, "A committee of the United States Congress held hearings in which they said any group that's on the SPLC's hate map ought to have their tax-exempt status stripped from them."
'The Cusp of Totalitarianism'
So what Wright's emphasizing is that much more is on the line than just a negative term like "haters" hitting conservative and Christian groups.
"If you say I'm a hater because of what I believe, then you're playing a very dangerous game," he explained. "When government and the law can punish people for what they think, that is on the cusp of totalitarianism. That is on the cusp of tyranny, when by your thoughts you're condemned."
Wright insists that fit into SPLC's stated goal of destroying conservative groups like his ministry.
"They are nothing but a collection of reputational terrorists," Wright said, adding, "They want to destroy your reputation. The SPLC even said 'Our goal is to destroy these organizations.'"
The Actual Merits of a One Man, One Woman Marriage
And besides that destructive goal, Wright accused the SPLC and others leaning Left of throwing the "hater" label around to avoid actually debating the issues.
He said, "When they can successfully say 'You're just a hater,' the first thing that happens is they don't have to deal with the underlying arguments about why we believe that gender is a biological phenomenon, not just a matter of choice, and why believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman."
Defending that belief in traditional marriage, Wright pointed out, "The secular research going back decades is irrefutable. Children do better when they have a mom and a dad. And they are safer, they are more economically secure, they have less bad outcomes in life in terms of drugs and crime and all these things. It's God's design because it's what's best for us. The Bible says it because it's for our welfare. It's what enables families to flourish."
'Why Should You Hate Me Simply Because We Disagree?'
Wright also objects to the SPLC slapping the "hater" label on his Christian organization because he believes it's inaccurate.
"A hater among Christians is an outlier. It's an exception. Jesus taught to love your very enemies," he argued.
Wright said of those who believe he or his organization hates them, "If they were to come to me and say 'Why do you hate me?,' I would explain to them that I don't. 'You and I see this issue totally differently…I don't hate you. Why should I hate you? And why should you hate me simply because we disagree?'"
As for its legal case against the SPLC, the ministry is hoping that case can someday go beyond just judges judging it.
"Our only desire here is to have a trial before a jury of our peers on the merits of our complaint," Wright told CBN News. "We think we can win if we can get before a jury of our peers."