|Founded||December 26, 1989|
|Founder||Mathew D. Staver|
|Type||501(c)(3) nonprofit organization|
|Headquarters||Maitland, Florida, United States|
|Services||Pro bono assistance and representation|
|Mathew D. Staver|
|Anita L. Staver|
Liberty Counsel is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that promotes litigation related to evangelical Christian values. Liberty Counsel was founded in 1989 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
Liberty Counsel agreed with the former U.S. military policy "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that banned personnel from openly identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The group opposes the addition of sexual orientation, gender identity, or similar provisions to hate crimes legislation, including the anti-lynching bill passed unanimously by the Senate in 2018. It also opposes same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions.
Liberty Counsel has been listed as an anti-gay group 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 leadership implicitly comparing gay men to pedophiles. Liberty Counsel has challenged that designation and the Associated Press' reporting of that designation.
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 dismissed Liberty Counsel's legal action and ruled that GuideStar has First Amendment protection for its "expressive right to comment on social issues." The SPLC was not named in the lawsuit. GuideStar removed the labels from the entries for Liberty Counsel and 45 other organizations shortly after adding them, saying: "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."
In 2000, Liberty Counsel threatened legal action against a public library in Jacksonville, Florida after the library held a party that featured readings from Harry Potter books and distributed "Hogwarts' Certificate of Accomplishment" to the children who attended. Staver said, "Witchcraft is a religion, and the certificate of witchcraft endorsed a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause."
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. 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."
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.
In July 2016, Liberty Counsel lobbied the Romanian Constitutional Court for a referendum on defining marriage as "the union between one man and one woman". Groups linked to the Orthodox Church and united under the umbrella Coaliția pentru familie (Coalition for Family) collected 3 million signatures to seek the constitutional amendment.
- Madsen v. Women's Health Center, Inc. (1994) 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.
- Lawrence v. Texas: (2003) submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of a Texas statute that criminalized homosexual sodomy.
- 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. That court declined that request on October 23, 2012.
- 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 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.
Liberty Counsel has interlocking boards with several related organizations.
- Luke 1827 Foundation Inc
- Liberty Counsel Action (FL)
- Liberty Counsel Action (VA)
- Freedom Federation Inc
- Liberty Action PAC Inc
- Salt and Light Council
- Liberty Mission Trust
- Liberty Action Mission Trust
- Freedom Mission Trust
- Judicial Tyranny - The Faith & Freedom Series - ISBN 0-9662079-1-2
- Eternal Vigilance - Knowing and Protecting Your Religious Freedom - ISBN 0-8054-4000-3
- Same-Sex Marriage - Putting Every Household at Risk - ISBN 0-8054-3196-9
- In addition, 2 leased employees and 36 employees of another nonprofit organization provided services to Liberty Counsel.
- "Liberty Counsel, Inc.". Detail by Entity Name. Division of Corporations. Florida Department of State. Accessed on July 6, 2016.
- "Liberty Counsel Inc." Exempt Organizations Select Check. Internal Revenue Service. Accessed on July 6, 2016.
- "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax". Liberty Counsel Inc. Guidestar. June 30, 2015.
- "About Liberty Counsel". Liberty Counsel. Accessed July 6, 2016.
- "Group Sues Schools Over Religious Cards". Retrieved 2016-08-05.
- Catholic Online. "'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Upheld by Supreme Court". catholic.org. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06.
- http://www.lc.org/media/9980/attachments/hatecrimes.pdf[permanent dead link]
- "Evangelical group wants gays removed from anti-lynching bill". NBC News. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
- "Liberty Counsel website - Advancing Family Values". Archived from the original on 2010-08-19. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
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.
- "Active Anti-LGBT Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center.
- "Active Hate Groups in the United States in 2014". Southern Poverty Law Center.
- Boy Scouts Organization Demise. Podcast, Liberty Counsel. Aug 11, 2015. https://www.lc.org/faith-and-freedom-full-article/boy-scouts-organization-demise
- "Liberty Counsel challenges SPLC 'hate group' label". onenewsnow.com. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
- "Kim Davis' Attorneys Attack Associated Press For Identifying Them As A "Hate Group"". Media Matters for America. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
- "Maitland-based Liberty Counsel loses lawsuit over 'hate group' label". Orlando Sentinel. Associated Press. 24 January 2018. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- "Update Regarding SPLC Flags on GuideStar Nonprofit Profiles". GuideStar. GuideStar. 23 June 2017. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
- "Jacksonville parents object to Harry Potter's 'witchcraft' | StAugustine.com". staugustine.com. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
- "Jacksonville Library Drops Harry Potter Certificates". American Library Assoc. Archived from the original on October 13, 2008. Retrieved October 22, 2008.
- Fowler, Sarah (September 14, 2015). "The legal team behind Kentucky's defiant clerk". BBC. Retrieved January 12, 2019.
- "Have a Holly, Jolly Holiday", The Washington Post, Dec. 20, 2005.
- "Haven't heard last on 'Silent Night'; Wis. school board is seeking redress from Christian legal group", Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 14, 2006.
- "Ten Commandments stand at Dixie courthouse, after lawsuit is dismissed". Gainesville.com. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
- "Liberty Counsel Successfully Defends Natural Marriage in Romania - Liberty". www.lc.org. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
- "Romania moves closer to ruling out possibility of legalizing same-sex marriage". Reuters. 2016-07-20. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
- "Romanian groups push for same-sex marriage ban". EurActiv.com. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
- "Romania Moves Closer to Ruling Out Same-Sex Marriage". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
- 512 U.S. 753 (1994).
- Mathew D. Staver, Injunctive Relief and the Madsen Test, 14 St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev. 465, 478 (1995).
- Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas (NY: W.W. Norton, 2012), 204-5
- 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.
- Lovett, Ken (October 23, 2012). "Court of Appeals refuses to hear gay marriage appeal". Metro Weekly. Retrieved October 23, 2012.
- Justin, Wm. Moyer (13 August 2015). "Federal judge orders Christian clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 August 2015.
- "WLWT5". July 13, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
- "Falwell Saw Law School as Tool to Alter Society". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-05-21.[permanent dead link]