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ORLANDO, Florida, June 29, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – A pro-family law group filed a federal lawsuit against GuideStar on Wednesday for its defamatory labeling of it as a “hate group.”

GuideStar, a massive charity database, recently backpedaled on its decision to label pro-family organizations as “hate groups.” One of the groups was Liberty Counsel, an international litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family. It provides pro bono assistance.

The lawsuit charges GuideStar with violating the federal Lanham Act, along with state law violations of Interference with Business Expectancy and Defamation. The suit seeks a permanent injunction, damages, and attorney’s fees and costs. The case of Liberty Counsel, Inc. v. GuideStar USA, Inc. was filed in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in the Newport News Division.

“GuideStar and its political ally, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), are intent on destroying pro-family organizations. The ‘hate group’ label is false and dangerous,” said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “GuideStar’s CEO, Jacob Harold, is using GuideStar as a weapon to defame, harm, and promote his liberal agenda by using the SPLC to falsely label good nonprofit organizations as ‘hate groups.’ The only purpose of providing the SPLC false and dangerous ‘hate group’ label is to inflict reputational and financial harm to Liberty Counsel. GuideStar has lost all credibility. GuideStar will now have to answer for its reckless, defamatory, and harmful political labeling.”

GuideStar used the SPLC's “hate group” designation by placing its logo and rhetoric on Liberty Counsel's page. The label stated: “This organization was flagged as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.” GuideStar placed the same “hate group” label on 46 nonprofit organizations, including Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Family Association, the Family Research Council, and others.

After receiving a letter last week from 41 nonprofit organizations, most of which GuideStar falsely labeled, GuideStar issued a statement and temporarily removed the label from the pages of the nonprofit groups.

However, GuideStar said it would continue to provide the SPLC “hate group” information upon request, and further declared that GuideStar is considering other ways to provide the information to the public.

Staver continued: “GuideStar has not retracted its ‘hate group’ label and continues to provide false, defamatory and harmful information it pushes as fact to the public. The damage by GuideStar is far reaching because this false and defamatory labeling has been spread through scores of media sources and the internet. It also appears on the GuideStar Wikipedia page.”

Jacob Harold, GuideStar’s president and chief executive officer, is a liberal activist like the SPLC. According to his bio, Harold has written extensively on climate change and has further training in grassroots organizing from Green Corps. He has also worked for Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace USA, and Citizen Works. In addition, Harold’s twitter account shows he is a climate change advocate, and he retweeted a GuideStar-published piece that uses pro-LGBT and pro-transgender language. Harold was a host for a NARAL Pro-Choice D.C. men’s event in 2014, and he blogged for Huffington Post. He also donated to the Obama campaign in 2011 before joining GuideStar in 2012. His wife is also a pro-abortion advocate. Harold tweeted a picture of himself at the so-called “Women’s March” in January 2017, holding a protest sign obviously directed against President Donald Trump. This march overtly promoted abortion.

The SPLC’s caustic and false rhetoric is dangerous because it creates a “Hate Map” listing so-called “hate groups.” Mark Potock with the SPLC admitted in an interview: “Our criteria for a ‘hate group,’ first of all, have nothing to do with criminality or violence or any kind of guess we’re making about ‘this group could be dangerous.’ It’s strictly ideological.”

Mark Potok is on video in a public meeting stating, “Sometimes the press will describe us as monitoring hate crimes and so on. I want to say plainly that our aim in life is to destroy these groups, to completely destroy them…”

The SPLC has now admitted James Hodgkinson, the D.C. shooter who gunned down Rep. Steve Scalise, two staff members and two U.S. Capitol Police officers, “liked” the SPLC on Facebook. In 2015, the SPLC wrote an article pushing the idea that Rep. Scalise promoted white supremacy and supported a “hate group” founded by former KKK member David Duke. The SPLC article clearly tries to infer that Rep. Scalise is a so-called “hater” and supporter of a “hate group.”

The SPLC is also linked to the attempted mass murder in the 2012 shooting at the Washington, D.C. office of the Family Research Council (FRC).  Floyd Corkins II was stopped by the FRC security guard, who was shot in the process. Corkins confessed to the FBI that he intended to commit mass murder and was motivated by the so-called “Hate Map” on the SPLC website that listed FRC as a “hate group.”

Laird Wilcox, founder of the Wilcox Collection on Contemporary Political Movements at the University of Kansas’s Kenneth Spencer Research Library and a leading expert on “extremist” organizations, has identified the false, misleading and destructive nature of the SPLC’s “hate group” designations.

Mr. Wilcox has noted that the SPLC has gone into “ideological overdrive and has developed many of the destructive traits that characterize moral crusaders, including the demonization of critics and dissenters.” Mr. Wilcox stated that the “hate group” designations reflect a “kind of selective attention and biased reporting” that “simply illustrates [the SPLC’s] unscrupulousness.” He continued that it is “pretty hard to deny that the SPLC is a political operation that is trying to tar right-wingers and conservative Republicans” using “a highly developed and ritualized form of defamation.”

SPLC’s “victims are usually ordinary people expressing their values, opinions, and beliefs—and they’re up against a very talented and articulate defamation machine,” Wilcox observed.

Alexander Cockburn, a columnist for the liberal publication The Nation, has labeled the SPLC and its leaders as “the archsalesmen of hatemongering.” Mr. Cockburn noted that the SPLC represents nothing more than “hate-seekers scour[ing] the landscape for hate like the arms manufacturers inventing new threats, and for the same reason: it’s their staple.”

In 2016, the United States Department of Justice’s Disciplinary Counsel for the Executive Office for Immigration Review sharply rebuked and reprimanded attorneys representing the SPLC and its allies for employing the SPLC’s “hate group” label to denigrate a conservative advocacy group and its attorneys engaged in advocacy in front of the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

The DOJ Disciplinary Counsel concluded that employing the SPLC’s “hate group” designation to denigrate attorneys and public interest groups engaged in advocacy on issues with which the SPLC disagrees “overstepped the bounds of zealous advocacy and was unprofessional.” According to the DOJ Disciplinary Counsel, employing the SPLC’s “hate group” designation to denigrate conservative public interest groups and their attorneys is “uncivil” and “constitutes frivolous behaviorand does not aid the administration of justice.”

Liberty Counsel's full press release, which contains links, a more extensive account of the SPLC's actions, and more criticism of the organization from various experts, can be viewed here.