Thursday, August 24, 2017

Hate group's real problem is revenues

Coral Ridge Ministries
Coral Ridge Ministries annual revenues
Through 2007, year ended December 31
Thereafter, year ended June 30
Coral Ridge Ministries Media dba D. James Kennedy Ministries is designated as an anti-LGBT hate group by Southern Poverty Law Center. They were originally listed as a hate group for statements like this (as described by SPLC):
In one typical newsletter, Kennedy published a photograph of two sweet-looking children under a headline reading, “Sex with Children? Homosexuals Say Yes!” Elsewhere, he has written that “homosexuals prey on adolescent boys” and “take America's children.”

Coral Ridge had a change of control in 2009. It stands to reason that once listed as a hate group, the onus is on the group to demonstrate that it is no longer a hate group. We do not know what negotiations have taken place between Coral Ridge and SPLC over the years.

Now Coral Ridge has sued SPLC for defamation, along with Amazon and GuideStar. Amazon's Smile Foundation donates 0.5% of a customer's eligible purchases to the customer's designated charity. In 2015 the foundation donated a total of $13 million. The foundation prohibits SPLC designated hate groups from participating. Coral Ridge claims that there is a conspiracy whereby GuideStar provides an automated feed to AmazonSmile Foundation. Amazon, AmazonSmile and GuideStar are likely to go bye-bye as defendants with motions to dismiss. Amazon is free to use any criteria of their choosing and GuideStar isn't involved in any way whatsoever.

That leaves SPLC. Aside from the defamation there is a trademark infringement claim similar to the one that Liberty Counsel used to sue GuideStar. It is supposedly a violation of the Lanham Act. It isn't. I suspect that Coral Ridge's lawyer consulted with Staver, the legal genius that he is.

There are four elements to defamation in Alabama. The burden is on Coral Ridge to prove all four.

The first hurdle is to prove that SPLC made a false statement. SPLC used the plaintiff's own statements to arrive at the hate group designation. To get around this, Coral Ridge claims that SPLC's opinion that an organization is a hate group is stated as fact. I do not see how this gets past a judge with an IQ above room temperature but this is being heard in Alabama. It's SPLC's home court but it is curiously cultured.

If by some chance they get by the first issue, step two is then to prove that the false statement was made recklessly, with some degree of fault or with intent to harm. Coral Ridge claims that the very intent of the hate group list is to harm the listees. That actually makes a modicum of sense. However, for example, credit reporting agencies prevent lenders from loaning money to bad credit risks. What Coral Ridge is saying amounts to accusing Equifax of intending to harm deadbeats.

Third, Coral Ridge must prove that SPLC did in fact damage their reputation.

Fourth and finally Coral Ridge has to prove an amount in damages actually caused. Based on their claim this would be predicated on an unknown number of shoppers supporting Coral Ridge through Amazon who would prospectively spend an unknown number of dollars.

Again, I don't see how they get past the first requirement but it is Alabama. Christian Central. Or is that slot occupied by Oklahoma? I digress.

Ultimately the reason for all of this is probably economics as the chart (above) demonstrates. In spite of their small size they do have the resources to battle SPLC. We do not yet have the 2016 990 filing but they did have assets of $3.6 million as of June 30, 2016.

Coral Ridge is represented by David C. Gibbs III who is with the National Center for Life and Liberty which Gibbs claims is in Bartonville, TX. According to the IRS, it is a PO box in St. Petersburg, Florida. Gibbs is listed as president. In round numbers it took in $700 thousand and lost $120 thousand. The biggest expense is $500 thousand in legal fees. I would have thought those funds went to Gibbs but they claim no transactions with insiders. Who knows? Gibbs does not take a salary.

According to the org's website Gibbs graduated from Duke Law School and manages the Gibbs Law Firm with offices in Dallas, Texas and St. Petersburg, Florida. He refers to the nonprofit as a ministry organization.

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