Liberty Counsel

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Liberty Counsel, Inc.
Liberty Counsel Logo.png
Liberty Counsel Logo
Founded 1989 (1989)
Founder Mathew D. Staver
Type Christian Litigation and Advocacy Organization
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] law firm 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, who is his wife. Both are attorneys.


Liberty Counsel supports barring people from the military on the basis of homosexual activity.[2] Liberty Counsel opposes efforts to prohibit employment discrimination against gay workers.[3] The organization further opposes the addition of sexual orientation, gender identity, or similar provisions to hate crimes legislation.[4] Liberty Counsel also devotes its time to fighting against same-sex marriage, civil unions, and adoption by gay people.[5]

Liberty Counsel has said that its primary goal is to influence policy.[6]


In 2000, Liberty Counsel threatened legal action against a public library for awarding a "Hogwarts' Certificate of Accomplishment" to young students who read J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in its entirety. 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."[7]

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."[8] The school was putting on the play "The Little Tree's Christmas Gift," written by Dwight Elrich, a former church choir director.[9] 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."[10]


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.[11]


  • Lawrence v. Texas submitted an amicus curiae brief in support of a Texas statute that criminalized homosexual sodomy.[12]
  • Madsen v. Women's Health Center (1994)[13] 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.[14]
  • Wigg v. Sioux Falls School District 49-6 (2004)[15] 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.[16]
  • 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.[17]
  • McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky (2005)[18] 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.[19]
  • 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.[20] That court declined to hear the appeal on October 23, 2012.[21]
  • 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.[22]


Liberty Counsel has been listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).[23] In 2005, they listed Liberty Counsel as one of twelve groups comprising an anti-gay crusade,[24] and in April 2014 added Liberty Counsel to their list of active anti-gay hate groups.[25]

Its chairman and his wife, who is its president, together pay themselves over $300,000 (U.S.) per year, or slightly under 10% of its annual revenue.[26]


Liberty Counsel is affiliated with Liberty University Law School, which was founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Liberty Counsel.[27] In 2004, Liberty Counsel became affiliated with Liberty University/Falwell Ministries, and Liberty Counsel opened an office at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.


Liberty Counsel controls several related organizations.[28]

  • 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. ^ Catholic Online. "'Dont Ask Dont Tell' Upheld by Supreme Court". 
  3. ^ "Liberty Alert - Liberty Counsel". 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "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."
  6. ^ Hacker, Hans J. The Culture of Conservative Christian Litigation. 2005. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 139, 144.
  7. ^ "Jacksonville Library Drops Harry Potter Certificates". American Library Assoc. Retrieved October 22, 2008. 
  8. ^ School Changes "Silent Night" to "Cold in the Night" and Secularizes the Lyrics, Liberty Counsel, Dec. 7, 2005.
  9. ^ "Have a Holly, Jolly Holiday", The Washington Post, Dec. 20, 2005.
  10. ^ "Haven't heard last on 'Silent Night'; Wis. school board is seeking redress from Christian legal group," Richmond Times-Dispatch, January 14, 2006.
  11. ^ Liberty Counsel, Take Back America, 2007
  12. ^ Dale Carpenter, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas (NY: W.W. Norton, 2012), 204-5
  13. ^ 512 U.S. 753 (1994).
  14. ^ Mathew D. Staver, Injunctive Relief and the Madsen Test, 14 St. Louis U. Pub. L. Rev. 465, 478 (1995).
  15. ^ 382 F.3d 807 (8th Cir. 2004).
  16. ^ "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. 
  17. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D.; Zezima, Katie (November 30, 2004). "Supreme Court Turns Down A Same-Sex Marriage Case". New York Times. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  18. ^ 545 U.S. 844 (2005).
  19. ^ "Liberty Counsel Files Brief With The United States Supreme Court In Kentucky Ten Commandments Case.". Liberty Counsel. Retrieved December 7, 2006. 
  20. ^ Snow, Justin (6 August 2012). "Anti-Gay Group Challenges Marriage Equality In New York". Metro Weekly. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  21. ^ Lovett, Ken (October 23, 2012). "Court of Appeals refuses to hear gay marriage appeal". Metro Weekly. Retrieved October 23, 2012. 
  22. ^ Justin, Wm. Moyer (13 August 2015). "Federal judge orders Christian clerk to issue same-sex marriage licenses". Washington Post. Retrieved 17 August 2015. 
  23. ^ "18 Anti-Gay Groups and Their Propaganda". 
  24. ^ "A Dozen Major Groups Help Drive the Religious Right’s Anti-Gay Crusade". Southern Poverty Law Center. 
  25. ^ "Active Anti-LGBT Groups". Southern Poverty Law Center. 
  26. ^ "Drawing the Line Between Civil and Religious Rights". 
  27. ^ "Falwell Saw Law School as Tool to Alter Society". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 
  28. ^ "2013 IRS Form 990 - Exempt Tax Return" (PDF). Retrieved September 7, 2015. 

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