Liberty Counsel

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Liberty Counsel, Inc.
Liberty Counsel Logo.png
Liberty Counsel Logo
Founded 1989 (1989)
Founder Mathew D. Staver
Type 501(c)(3) Charity
Registration no. 59-2986294 (EIN)
Area served
United States
Key people
  • Mathew D. Staver, Chairman
  • Anita L. Staver, President
  • Candice McGuire, Secretary
  • Robert Miller, Treasurer
$4,206,852 (2014 FY)
2013 FY Tax Return

Liberty Counsel is a tax-exempt[1] legal organization that specializes in evangelical Christian litigation. Liberty Counsel was founded in 1989 by its chairman, Mathew D. Staver, together with its president, Anita L. Staver, his wife. Both are attorneys. In October 2015, the Southern Poverty Law Center listed Liberty Counsel as a hate group.

Positions and responses[edit]

Liberty Counsel's mission statement is "Restoring the Culture by Advancing Religious Freedom, the Sanctity of Human Life and the Family." [2] Liberty Counsel advocates for Israel.[3] Liberty Counsel supports barring people from the military on the basis of homosexual activity.[4] Liberty Counsel defends employment discrimination against gay workers[5] and opposes the addition of sexual orientation, gender identity, or similar provisions to hate crimes legislation.[6] Liberty Counsel also opposes same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by gay people.[7]

Liberty Counsel has been listed as an anti-gay group[8] and a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).[9] Liberty Counsel has challenged that designation[10] and the Associated Press' reporting on that designation.[11]


Liberty Counsel represented a pastor who was arrested for protesting at a demonstration against abortion.[12] Liberty Counsel defended students in Duval County who wanted to deliver a graduation message that may include religious statements.[13] Liberty Counsel represented Dixie County, Florida in a case involving the Ten Commandments against the ACLU.[14] Liberty Counsel offered to help Arkansas defend the law restricting abortion.[15] Franklin Graham was a guest speaker at Liberty Counsel's "The Awakening 2015" event in Orlando.[16] In 2000, Liberty Counsel threatened legal action against a public library. Liberty Counsel complained after being contacted by parents who complained about""Hogwarts' Certificate of Accomp-lishment" to students who attended a party featuring readings from Harry Potter books.[17] 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."[18] The group has hosted college students for trips to Israel.[19] 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.[20] 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."[21]


Liberty Counsel offers pro-bono litigation on topics that is within its mission.[22] 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.[23]


  • Lawrence v. Texas submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of a Texas statute that criminalized homosexual sodomy.[24]
  • Madsen v. Women's Health Center, Inc. (1994)[25] 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.[26]
  • Wigg v. Sioux Falls School District 49-6 (2004)[27] 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.[28]
  • 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.[29]
  • McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005)[30] defended a Ten Commandments public monument. Liberty Counsel lost this case that challenged the legal test regarding religious displays used by the courts since the 1970s. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia delivered a dissent that challenged prevailing Supreme Court jurisprudence regarding the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.[31]
  • 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.[32] That court declined to hear the appeal on October 23, 2012.[33]
  • Miller v. Davis Liberty Counsel represented Kentucky Rowan County 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. Thus far, she has lost each ruling and appeal.[34]


Liberty Counsel is affiliated with Liberty University Law School, which was founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Liberty Counsel.[35]


Liberty Counsel controls several related organizations.[36]

  • Luke 18:27 Foundation, Inc.
  • Liberty Counsel Action, Inc.
  • Liberty Counsel Action
  • Freedom Federation, Inc.
  • Liberty Action PAC, Inc.
  • Salt and Light Council



  1. ^ "990 Form" (PDF). 
  2. ^ "Guidestar". 
  3. ^ "Liberty Counsel Founder Urges Christians to Stand With Israel". Charisma News. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  4. ^ Catholic Online. "'Don't Ask Don't Tell' Upheld by Supreme Court". 
  5. ^ "Liberty Alert - Liberty Counsel". 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "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."
  8. ^ "Active Anti-LGBT Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center. 
  9. ^ "Active Hate Groups in the United States in 2014". Southern Poverty Law Center. 
  10. ^ "Liberty Counsel challenges SPLC 'hate group' label". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  11. ^ "Kim Davis' Attorneys Attack Associated Press For Identifying Them As A "Hate Group"". Media Matters for America. Retrieved 2015-10-27. 
  12. ^ "Pro-life pastor awarded damages for unlawful arrest at Mississippi protest | Christian Examiner Newspapers". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  13. ^ Strode, Thomas. "BP News". 
  14. ^ "Ten Commandments stand at Dixie courthouse, after lawsuit is dismissed". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  15. ^ Eckholm, Erik (2013-03-11). "Arkansas Senator Jason Rapert’s Abortion Ban". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  16. ^ Diaz, Keila. "Florida Baptist Witness". 
  17. ^ "Jacksonville parents object to Harry Potter's 'witchcraft' |". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  18. ^ "Jacksonville Library Drops Harry Potter Certificates". American Library Assoc. Retrieved October 22, 2008. 
  19. ^ "Israel Tour Gives Students a Vision of the Holy Land · News & Events · Pensacola Christian College". Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  20. ^ "Have a Holly, Jolly Holiday", The Washington Post, Dec. 20, 2005.
  21. ^ "Haven't heard last on 'Silent Night'; Wis. school board is seeking redress from Christian legal group," Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 14, 2006.
  22. ^ Hacker, Hans (2005). The Culture of Conservative Christian Litigation. ISBN 0742534464. Retrieved 2015-10-26. 
  23. ^ Liberty Counsel, Take Back America, 2007
  24. ^ Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas (NY: W.W. Norton, 2012), 204-5
  25. ^ 512 U.S. 753 (1994).
  26. ^ Mathew D. Staver, Injunctive Relief and the Madsen Test, 14 St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev. 465, 478 (1995).
  27. ^ 382 F.3d 807 (8th Cir. 2004).
  28. ^ "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. 
  29. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D.; Zezima, Katie (November 30, 2004). "Supreme Court Turns Down A Same-Sex Marriage Case". New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  30. ^ 545 U.S. 844 (2005).
  31. ^ "Liberty Counsel Files Brief With The United States Supreme Court In Kentucky Ten Commandments Case.". Liberty Counsel. Retrieved December 7, 2006. 
  32. ^ Snow, Justin (6 August 2012). "Anti-Gay Group Challenges Marriage Equality In New York". Metro Weekly. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  33. ^ Lovett, Ken (October 23, 2012). "Court of Appeals refuses to hear gay marriage appeal". Metro Weekly. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  34. ^ Justin, Wm. Moyer (13 August 2015). "Federal judge orders Christian clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  35. ^ "Falwell Saw Law School as Tool to Alter Society". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  36. ^ "2013 IRS Form 990 - Exempt Tax Return" (PDF). Retrieved September 7, 2015. 

External links[edit]