Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Certiorari Denied In Christian Ministry's Challenge To Defamation Standard

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc. v. Southern Poverty Law Center, (Docket No. 21-802, certiorari denied 6/27/2022). In the case, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an Alabama federal district court's dismissal of a defamation suit brought by a Christian ministry and media company. Coral Ridge is designated as a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of Coral Ridge's religious beliefs opposing LGBTQ conduct. The Circuit Court dismissed the defamation claim because plaintiff failed to adequately plead actual malice (i.e., knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard of the truth). Justice Thomas filed an opinion dissenting from the denial of certiorari, saying in part:

I would grant certiorari in this case to revisit the “actual malice” standard. This case is one of many showing how New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups “to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity.” ... SPLC’s “hate group” designation lumped Coral Ridge’s Christian ministry with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis. It placed Coral Ridge on an interactive, online “Hate Map” and caused Coral Ridge concrete financial injury by excluding it from the AmazonSmile donation program.

Law & Crime reports on the case.