In late March, a US District Court judge rejected the Southern Poverty Law Center’s motion to dismiss the defamation case brought by the Georgia-based border security group the Dustin Inman Society, opening up the door to possibly learning how the SPLC brands groups as hate groups, the Washington Examiner reported.
The Dustin Inman Society sued the SPLC for defamation for labeling the conservative border security group a “hate group.”
The president and founder of the Dustin Inman Society, D.A. King, told the Washington Examiner that the judge’s decision helped the group overcome “the biggest and most often injected hurdle” facing those who try to fight back against the SLPC.
The SPLC publishes the notorious “hate map” featuring the groups and organizations in the United States that it has deemed “hate groups.” In 2021, the SPLC hate map tagged 733 organizations in the US.
In addition to the Dustin Inman Society, the SPLC has labeled as hate groups such conservative groups as the Alliance for Defending Freedom, Catholic Family News, the Center for Family and Human Rights, the Center for Immigration Studies, the Family Research Council, Liberty Council, and Ruth Institute.
The SPLC has defended itself by arguing that its hate group designations are protected under the First Amendment because they represent “non-actionable opinion.” This defense has worked out well for the SPLC for years. But it failed to work on March 31 when US District Judge W. Keith Watkins rejected its motion to dismiss the Dustin Inman Society and D.A. King’s defamation case.
King told the Washington Examiner that since both he and his organization are legally considered public figures, they have a much higher legal hurdle to clear to prove the SPLC defamed them. Namely, they must prove actual malice, the standard created by the Supreme Court’s decision in New York Times v. Sullivan.
But with the motion to dismiss the case rejected, King said his party can now pursue discovery in the case to obtain SPLC internal communications showing evidence that meets the actual malice standard.
The Dustin Inman Society and King are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as an injunction forcing the SPLC to remove its hate group label, issue a public retraction, and apologize publicly.