GuideStar’s Comical Claim (Liberty Counsel)

Jun 5, 2018

RICHMOND, VA – Liberty Counsel filed a brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit demonstrating that GuideStar, along with its political partner the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), has disseminated the false and defamatory “hate group” designation to silence the biblical worldview espoused by conservative organizations like Liberty Counsel.

Liberty Counsel sued GuideStar under the Lanham Act, which prohibits making false and misleading characterizations of a group’s goods or services. The district court dismissed the complaint based on an erroneous view of the law. GuideStar has argued that the dismissal should be upheld because Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit represents an attempt to silence its speech on a public issue. Such an attempt to claim victim status on the part of GuideStar is utterly comical given that it has partnered with the SPLC which admits its mission is to “completely destroy” Liberty Counsel. Thus, it is Liberty Counsel that is fighting GuideStar and the SPLC’s efforts to silence speech.

Liberty Counsel argues that while non-profit organizations certainly have a First Amendment right to comment on issues in the marketplace of ideas, the Lanham Act prohibits falsely and misleadingly defaming an organization while attempting to gain an economic advantage. GuideStar admittedly solicited advertisements for its paid subscription services on the same profile page in which it falsely and misleadingly claims Liberty Counsel is a “hate group.” Therefore, GuideStar admitted that it was seeking to influence the financial decisions of its customers and is thus subject to the limitations of the Lanham Act.

GuideStar also admitted that it did no independent research on how the SPLC arrives at its false and defamatory designations, and that it was aware of the political bias of the SPLC and the significant criticisms of the false and defamatory “hate group” label. Despite all such admissions, GuideStar now attempts to escape the limitations of the Lanham Act by claiming that it had no economic interest in partnering with the SPLC and republishing the false and defamatory “hate group” label. Those admissions, however, are fatal to GuideStar’s arguments.

“GuideStar’s attempt to claim victim status in a case challenging GuideStar and the SPLC’s shared mission to ‘completely destroy’ organizations like Liberty Counsel is utterly absurd,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “Liberty Counsel’s lawsuit is intended to protect its own good name, reputation, and mission, and Liberty Counsel will not permit such false and misleading attacks to go unchallenged,” said Staver.

Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.