The conservative judge now wants to revisit a landmark 1964 ruling after the Supreme Court declined to review a Florida megachurch's lawsuit over a "hate group" label.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a defamation and discrimination lawsuit brought forth by D. James Kennedy Ministries' (DJKM) against Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) over a published claim that labeled the Florida megachurch as a "hate group" alongside others such as the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, and more hate organizations.The Supreme Court declined to hear the case without comment but conservative Justice Clarence Thomas urged the high court to revisit the landmark 1964 ruling regarding defamation lawsuits.
CBN News reported that while SPLC had properly labeled haters and racists such as the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis as "hate groups," it had also included D. James Kennedy Ministries on its list. DJKM is a Christian media ministry founded in 1974 by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was first known as Coral Ridge Ministries. The ministry, like many others, stands for traditional marriage as defined in the Bible and against the radical parts of the LGBT agenda.
D. James Kennedy Ministries Unable to Receive Donations Because of Its 'Hate Group' Label
Because DJKM upholds biblical beliefs on marriage and sexuality, the ministry has been labeled a "hate group" by SPLC. This then led the ministry to be excluded from participating in Amazon's "Smile" charity program, which DJKM said was religious discrimination, Reuters reported.
Justice Thomas wrote in his three-page dissent that SPLC's "hate group" label for the Florida ministry had "lumped" it with groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis and had caused the ministry "concrete financial injury" because it was excluded from Amazon's Smile donation program. He argued further that the ministry was "unable to satisfy the 'almost impossible' actual-malice standard" that the Supreme Court has imposed, and therefore could not hold SPLC accountable for the "blatant falsehood" that is the "hate group" label.
Conservative Justice Calls for Review of 1964 Ruling Over Defamation Lawsuits Against the Media
Justice Thomas wrote that he would "grant certiorari in this case to revisit the 'actual malice' standard," referring to the landmark 1964 ruling that makes it difficult to successfully sue against media outlets for defamation, The Hill reported. The conservative judge added that this case demonstrates how media companies are able to "to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity."
This is not the first time Justice Thomas called for revisiting the actual malice standard established by the 1964 ruling. In 2021, he issued a dissent when the Supreme Court decided against hearing a defamation case that had been stymied by the same 1964 precedent. Back then, he argued that there was a "lack of historical support" for the Supreme Court's "actual-malice requirement," which is why he strongly believed that there should be a "second look" at the doctrine and its "real-world effects."