It all began with an online interactive map.
The progressive advocacy group, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) which is based in Alabama, tracks hate groups across the country and fights discrimination and violence based on race, sexual orientation, and other victims of injustice. On their website the group has a page that is called the “Hate Map” where one can scan the country and drill down into each state to see what hate groups are active.
SPLC defines “hate groups” as organizations that have “beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
One of the hate groups listed in Florida decided to take the SPLC to court, along with Amazon, because they wanted to profit from Amazon’s “Smile” Foundation which gives 0.05% of a purchased item’s price to an approved charity — but the charity cannot be a hate group, and therein began the lawsuit.
Readers of Instinct Magazine are probably already familiar with Coral Ridge Presbyterian Ministries (doing business also as D. James Kennedy Ministries, named after their extremely homophobic founder, the now deceased pastor James Kennedy). This Fort Lauderdale, Florida, based church has a long, illustrious history of homophobia, transphobia, and continues to promote an anti-LGBTQ+ ideology that goes beyond simple religious teaching and crosses into hate group status.
Because Amazon uses the SPLC Hate Map as a basis for determining whether a charity qualifies for the “Smiles Foundation” program, Coral Ridge was excluded from participating and took both the SPLC and Amazon to court. Having lost the first round in 2019, this past week SPLC / Amazon won again on appeal.
The crux of Coral Ridge’s lawsuit was “religious freedom” and even though the church has every right to continue preaching its message of homophobia and hate, it doesn’t have the right to shake loose money from a private company (Amazon) which has based its rules for giving to charity on a publicly accessible criterion of anti-hate. The court did not rule on whether Amazon is in fact a platform for public accommodation which would restrict its ability to limit participation based on its own policies.
If Coral Ridge decides to further appeal up the Supreme Court, this “religious freedom” and “public accommodation” tactic might be what the conservative majority uses to rule in Coral Ridge’s favor.
But for now, we geeks who love interactive maps can revel in the fact that for now, the haters lost.