The Associated Press Defamed Mat Staver

On October 4, Claire Galofaro wrote what pretended to be a news story for the Associated Press entitled “Law firm labeled hate group leading Kim Davis’ crusade.” What other group would have its defense of a fundamental constitutional right referred to as a “crusade” in a headline? The ACLU? The NAACP? Not likely.

The problem is that some in the media disagree with Kim Davis and have decided to use their platforms to to undermine her claim in the public eye. They also want to belittle anyone who stands with her. Not satisfied with disparaging Davis, Galofaro set her pen against my friend, Mat Staver, the founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Media across the nation rewrote the story and it found its way into television and radio reports. What made this faux news story most offensive was calling the Liberty Counsel a “hate group,” using the Southern Poverty Law Center as an authority. The SPLC is a radical activist organization with an open animus against Christians.

“The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Liberty Counsel as an anti-gay hate group for spreading false information,” Galofaro writes. She quotes a senior fellow at the SPLC who claims that the Liberty Counsel “regularly portrays gay people as perverse, diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk.” That’s how the simple defense of Christian morality gets labeled.

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Being labeled a hate group by the SPLC isn’t a small thing. The group called the Family Research Council a “hate group” and even included their headquarters on a map on their website. This led Floyd Lee Corkins II to shoot a guard at the Council’s headquarters and nearly commit mass murder.

Kim Davis refused to sign marriage licenses for homosexual and lesbian couples based upon her deeply held religious convictions. She is merely asking that her conscience be accommodated by removing her name from any marriage licenses at all. No one should dispute the sincerity of her religious belief. The question is whether she can — and should — be accommodated.

In a public statement in September, Davis said, “I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus Himself regarding marriage.” She explained that “to issue a marriage license which conflicts with God’s definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience.”

Davis faced the kind of quandary faithful Christians have faced since the first century. In the fifth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we read the account of Peter and the apostles being told they must stop sharing the Gospel or be thrown into prison. Peter put it clearly, “We must obey God rather than men.”

She noted that “our history is filled with accommodations for people’s religious freedom and conscience.” She is historically and legally correct. Such an accommodation would be consistent with the constitutional protection of the free exercise of religion found in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights and with many states’ previous practice. All the Liberty Counsel has done is defend her constitutional rights. How is that hateful?

I have practiced law for thirty-five years. Much of that time I’ve been involved in religious liberty and constitutional work. I was the founding executive director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). I know good constitutional lawyers, and Mat Staver is a great one. The fact that the governor-elect of Kentucky will issue an executive order which accommodates Kim Davis, along with any other Christians who have a conscientious objection, is evidence of that fact.

But Galafaro wasn’t done attacking Mat Staver. She also joined the continuing effort to minimize the fact that Pope Francis met privately with Kim Davis and her husband to encourage her. Many in the media do not like this fact because it upsets their effort to use Pope Francis in their efforts to change the culture. No effort to minimize the meeting can undo the message it sent.

Clare Galofaro defamed an outstanding lawyer. But there is good news to report. A coalition has come together to expose the errant claims of this article and stand up against the bullying it represents. Under the leadership of retired Lieutenant General William G. Boykin, the executive vice president of the Family Research Council, they have just released a superbly written letter which sets this important issue in context. They call upon the Associated Press to correct the wrongs done to Liberty Counsel and Mat Staver. I add my voice to theirs and urge all of my readers to do the same.

First published at The Stream

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Deacon Keith Fournier
Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of the Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance, which are dedicated to the conversion of culture through four pillars of participation; life, family, freedom and solidarity. He is the Editor-in-Chief at Catholic Online. He is a constitutional lawyer who appeared in four cases before the United States Supreme Court on Pro-Life, Religious Freedom and Pro-family issues. He is the author of eight books on Christian living, Christian family and public policy issues. Deacon Fournier is a member of the Clergy of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. He holds his BA in theology and philosophy from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, his Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University (MTS), his Juris Doctor Law Degree Law (JD) from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and is a PhD candidate in Moral Theology at the Catholic University.

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