Liberty Counsel

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Liberty Counsel, Inc.
Logo of Liberty Counsel
Founded December 26, 1989; 28 years ago (1989-12-26)[1]
Founder Mathew D. Staver
Type 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization[2]
Headquarters Maitland, Florida, United States[1]
Services Pro bono assistance and representation[4]
Mathew D. Staver
Anita L. Staver
Candice McGuire
Robert Miller
Revenue (2015)
Expenses (2015) $5,263,709[3]
Employees (2014)
Volunteers (2014)

Liberty Counsel is a 501(c)(3)[2] tax-exempt organization that promotes litigation related to evangelical Christian values.[5] Liberty Counsel was founded in 1989[1] by its chairman Mathew D. Staver and its president Anita L. Staver, who are attorneys and married to each other. The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed Liberty Counsel as an anti-LGBT hate group, a designation which has been disputed by the group.

Positions and responses[edit]

Liberty Counsel advocates "stand[ing] in solidarity with Israel".[6] Liberty Counsel agreed with the military policy banning homosexual activity within the armed forces.[7] and opposes the addition of sexual orientation, gender identity, or similar provisions to hate crimes legislation.[8] Liberty Counsel also opposes same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by gay people.[9]

Liberty Counsel has been listed as an anti-gay group[10] by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In October 2015, SPLC listed the group as a hate group, in part for opposing LGBT individual's participation in the Scouts and for Liberty Counsel's leadship implicitly comparing gay men to pedophiles.[11][12] Liberty Counsel has challenged that designation[13] and the Associated Press' reporting of that designation.[14]

In June 2017 it sued GuideStar USA, Inc., an information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit companies, for flagging it as having been labeled a hate group by the SPLC. In January 2018 a Virginia Federal judge ruled that GuideStar has First Amendment protection for its "expressive right to comment on social issues." The SPLC was not named in the lawsuit.[15] GuideStar removed the labels from the entries for Liberty Counsel and 45 other organizations shortly after adding them, saying that "Dismayingly, a significant amount of the feedback we've received in recent days has shifted from constructive criticism to harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership. With this development in mind—driven by both our commitment to objectivity and our concerns for our staff's wellbeing—we have decided to remove the SPLC annotations from these 46 organizations for the time being."[16]


Liberty Counsel represented a pastor who was arrested for protesting at a demonstration against abortion.[17]

Liberty Counsel defended students in Duval County, Florida, who wanted to deliver a graduation message that may include religious statements.[18]

Liberty Counsel represented Dixie County, Florida against the American Civil Liberties Union in a case involving the Ten Commandments.[19]

Liberty Counsel offered to help Arkansas defend a law restricting abortion.[20]

Franklin Graham was a guest speaker at Liberty Counsel's "The Awakening 2015" event in Orlando.[21]

In 2000, Liberty Counsel threatened legal action against a public library in Jacksonville, Florida. Liberty Counsel complained after being contacted by parents who complained about "Hogwarts' Certificate of Accomplishment" to students who attended a party featuring readings from Harry Potter books.[22] Staver said that "Witchcraft is a religion, and the certificate of witchcraft endorsed a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause."[23]

The group has hosted college students for trips to Israel.[24]

In December 2005, Liberty Counsel issued a press release accusing an elementary school in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, of changing the lyrics of Christmas songs to make them more secular, and said that it would sue the school district "if the district does not immediately remedy the situation." The school was putting on the play "The Little Tree's Christmas Gift", written by Dwight Elrich, a former church choir director.[25] The Dodgeville school district attempted to seek a retraction and an apology from Liberty Counsel, as well as reimbursement of $20,000 spent in personnel, security, and attorney fees to fight the accusation. Liberty Counsel's Staver refused, asserting, "There is nothing to apologize for or retract."[26]

In November 2015, Liberty Counsel threatened to sue a Wisconsin school because they wanted to give a reading of the book I am Jazz, a book by Jessica Herthel and transgender teenager Jazz Jennings.[27]

In July 2016, Liberty Counsel has lobbied[28] the Romanian Constitutional Court for a referendum on defining marriage as "the union between one man and one woman".[29] Groups linked to the Orthodox Church[30] and united under the umbrella Coaliția pentru familie (Coalition for Family) collected 3 million signatures[31] to seek the constitutional amendment.


Liberty Counsel offers pro-bono litigation on topics that is within its mission.[32] Liberty Counsel provides information and research to affect legislation and public policy at the local, state, and national level. Liberty Counsel operates the Liberty Center for Law and Policy which monitors and drafts proposed legislation.[33]


  • Lawrence v. Texas: submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of a Texas statute that criminalized homosexual sodomy.[34]
  • Madsen v. Women's Health Center, Inc. (1994)[35] In a partial victory for Liberty Counsel, the United States Supreme Court defined the limits of injunctive relief available to abortion clinics against pickets and demonstrators. The Court established the Madsen Test, which provides that injunctive relief can be granted when it is shown that the defendant has violated or imminently will violate some provision of law, there is a discernible danger of recurrent violations, and a following speech restrictive injunction may not burden speech more than necessary to serve a significant government interest.[36]
  • Wigg v. Sioux Falls School District 49-6 (2004)[37] The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled as Liberty Counsel argued that after school Bible study classes on campus after school hours do not violate the First Amendment's Establishment Clause, since they constitute private free speech.[38]
  • In November, 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Liberty's Counsel's appeal, previously dismissed in the District Court and the First Circuit Court of Appeals, on behalf of the Catholic Action Council of Massachusetts and others who sought to block implementation of the court decision in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that held the denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples to be unconstitutional.[39]
  • McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005)[40] defended a Ten Commandments public monument. Liberty Counsel lost this case that challenged the legal test used by the courts since the 1970s regarding religious displays.[41]
  • In a challenge to New York's June, 2011 Marriage Equality Act, Liberty Counsel asked the state's highest court to hear its appeal and invalidate the law.[42] That court declined that request on October 23, 2012.[43]
  • Miller v. Davis Liberty Counsel represented Rowan County (Kentucky) Clerk Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian who in 2015 stopped issuing marriage licenses after the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry. She lost an earlier ruling in 2015[44] and in 2016, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed an injunction against her at the request of Liberty Counsel after a new Kentucky law was passed that made the case moot. At the same time they refused to vacate a contempt decree against her.[45]


Liberty Counsel has ties with Liberty University Law School, which was founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell with the assistance of Liberty Counsel's Founder.[46][47]

Related organizations[edit]

Liberty Counsel has interlocking boards with several related organizations.[3]

  • Luke 1827 Foundation Inc[3]
  • Liberty Counsel Action (FL)[3]
  • Liberty Counsel Action (VA)[3]
  • Freedom Federation Inc[3]
  • Liberty Action PAC Inc[3]
  • Salt and Light Council[3]
  • Liberty Mission Trust[3]
  • Liberty Action Mission Trust[3]
  • Freedom Mission Trust[3]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ In addition, 2 leased employees and 36 employees of another nonprofit organization provided services to Liberty Counsel.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "Liberty Counsel, Inc.". Detail by Entity Name. Division of Corporations. Florida Department of State. Accessed on July 6, 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Liberty Counsel Inc." Exempt Organizations Select Check. Internal Revenue Service. Accessed on July 6, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Liberty Counsel Inc. Guidestar. June 30, 2015.
  4. ^ "About Liberty Counsel". Liberty Counsel. Accessed July 6, 2016.
  5. ^ "Group Sues Schools Over Religious Cards". Retrieved 2016-08-05. 
  6. ^ "Liberty Counsel Founder Urges Christians to Stand With Israel". Charisma News. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  7. ^ Catholic Online. "'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Upheld by Supreme Court". Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. 
  8. ^[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2010-04-17.  "First case ever to declare a Vermont civil union is not equivalent to marriage, and a state and federal Defense of Marriage Act permits a state to ban same sex unions."
  10. ^ "Active Anti-LGBT Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center. 
  11. ^ "Active Hate Groups in the United States in 2014". Southern Poverty Law Center. 
  12. ^ Boy Scouts Organization Demise. Podcast, Liberty Counsel. Aug 11, 2015.
  13. ^ "Liberty Counsel challenges SPLC 'hate group' label". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  14. ^ "Kim Davis' Attorneys Attack Associated Press For Identifying Them As A "Hate Group"". Media Matters for America. Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
  15. ^ "Maitland-based Liberty Counsel loses lawsuit over 'hate group' label". Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press. 24 January 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018. 
  16. ^ "Update Regarding SPLC Flags on GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles". GuideStar. GuideStar. 23 June 2017. Retrieved 17 March 2018. 
  17. ^ "Pro-life pastor awarded damages for unlawful arrest at Mississippi protest | Christian Examiner Newspapers". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  18. ^ Strode, Thomas. "BP News". 
  19. ^ "Ten Commandments stand at Dixie courthouse, after lawsuit is dismissed". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  20. ^ Eckholm, Erik (2013-03-11). "Arkansas Senator Jason Rapert's Abortion Ban". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  21. ^ Diaz, Keila. "Florida Baptist Witness". Archived from the original on 2016-04-18. 
  22. ^ "Jacksonville parents object to Harry Potter's 'witchcraft' |". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  23. ^ "Jacksonville Library Drops Harry Potter Certificates". American Library Assoc. Archived from the original on October 13, 2008. Retrieved October 22, 2008. 
  24. ^ "Israel Tour Gives Students a Vision of the Holy Land · News & Events · Pensacola Christian College". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  25. ^ "Have a Holly, Jolly Holiday", The Washington Post, Dec. 20, 2005.
  26. ^ "Haven't heard last on 'Silent Night'; Wis. school board is seeking redress from Christian legal group", Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 14, 2006.
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Liberty Counsel Successfully Defends Natural Marriage in Romania - Liberty". Retrieved 2016-07-25. 
  29. ^ "Romania moves closer to ruling out possibility of legalizing same-sex marriage". Reuters. 2016-07-20. Retrieved 2016-07-25. 
  30. ^ "Romanian groups push for same-sex marriage ban". Retrieved 2016-07-25. 
  31. ^ "Romania Moves Closer to Ruling Out Same-Sex Marriage". Retrieved 2016-07-25. 
  32. ^ Hacker, Hans (2005). The Culture of Conservative Christian Litigation. ISBN 0742534464. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  33. ^ Liberty Counsel, Take Back America, 2007
  34. ^ Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas (NY: W.W. Norton, 2012), 204-5
  35. ^ 512 U.S. 753 (1994).
  36. ^ Mathew D. Staver, Injunctive Relief and the Madsen Test, 14 St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev. 465, 478 (1995).
  37. ^ 382 F.3d 807 (8th Cir. 2004).
  38. ^ "Federal Appeals Court Rules That Public School Teacher May Participate In A Christian After-School Good News Club For Elementary Students". Liberty Counsel. Retrieved 2006-12-07. [permanent dead link]
  39. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D.; Zezima, Katie (November 30, 2004). "Supreme Court Turns Down A Same-Sex Marriage Case". New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  40. ^ 545 U.S. 844 (2005).
  41. ^ "Liberty Counsel Files Brief With The United States Supreme Court In Kentucky Ten Commandments Case". Liberty Counsel. Archived from the original on April 15, 2013. Retrieved December 7, 2006. 
  42. ^ Snow, Justin (6 August 2012). "Anti-Gay Group Challenges Marriage Equality In New York". Metro Weekly. Archived from the original on 17 August 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  43. ^ Lovett, Ken (October 23, 2012). "Court of Appeals refuses to hear gay marriage appeal". Metro Weekly. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  44. ^ Justin, Wm. Moyer (13 August 2015). "Federal judge orders Christian clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  45. ^ "WLWT5". July 13, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  46. ^ "Newsmax Magazine". The Rise of Liberty University. April 2014. Retrieved July 29, 2016. 
  47. ^ "Falwell Saw Law School as Tool to Alter Society". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 

External links[edit]