A federal judge has refused to dismiss an Alabama Supreme Court justice’s case against an activist state commission and its private partner, the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center, making it likely a trial will decide if those groups violated the justice’s First Amendment rights.
At issue is an investigation begun by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission into statements made by Associate Justice Tom Parker in defense of traditional marriage in a radio interview while a related case was underway.
The investigation was based on a complaint from SPLC, which recently was named in several complaints and lawsuits for allegedly smearing conservative and Christian organizations with its “hate” designation.
According to Liberty Counsel, which is defending Parker, the decision is “a blow” to the JIC and the group that filed the complaint, SPLC.
Parker is challenging the constitutionality of several speech restrictive provisions of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics that were being used by the SPLC “to silence the protected speech of Justice Parker,” Liberty Counsel said.
The court originally dismissed Parker’s lawsuit on the grounds that the JIC’s pending investigation required federal courts to abstain from the matter.
However, while Parker’s appeal was pending, the JIC dismissed SPLC’s complaint. Liberty Counsel then filed a motion to have the case returned to the lower court to address the merits of the legal challenge, and the Court of Appeals unanimously agreed with Liberty Counsel.
Late Thursday, the federal district court denied the motions to dismiss filed by the JIC and the attorney general, finding that the free speech claims could proceed but the due process claim had been denied in another case by the Court of Appeals, said Liberty Counsel.
Get the Whistleblower Magazine’s revelations about the SPLC, in its March 2015 edition of “The Hate Racket,” the complete story of how one group fools government into equating Christians and conservatives with Klansmen and Nazis – and rakes in millions doing it.
SPLC also was directly linked to domestic terror when a man who confessed to trying to shoot up the Family Research Council offices in Washington admitted he was inspired by SPLC’s demonization of FRC as a “hate” group.
The state’s JIC also worked with SPLC to remove former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore from his office because of his promotion of the Ten Commandments, the foundation for American law. When voters a few years later restored Moore to the same post, SPLC complained a second time about his statements endorsing biblical marriage, and the JIC responded by removing him again.
Moore is now the front-runner to finish the Senate term of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Former Alabama attorney general Luther Strange, who was appointed to temporarily fill the seat and is a defendant in the current case, is running a distant second.
Parker sued the JIC, alleging the state’s speech restrictions on judges violated his First Amendment Rights. The JIC and Strange had demanded that the case be dismissed, but a federal judge refused.
Parker is challenging a judicial canon that prohibits a judge from commenting on any case pending anywhere in the country even though the judge is not presiding over the case.
Liberty Counsel noted that many years ago, the American Bar Association took the position that such restriction violates the First Amendment.
“But instead of revising the canon, Alabama continues to retain the unconstitutional canon,” Liberty Counsel explained.
Parker has announced he will seek to succeed Moore as chief justice.
“We are pleased that Justice Parker’s case will now move forward on the merits of his First Amendment challenge,” said Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel. “The judicial canon that prohibits judges from commenting on any case anywhere in the country is patently unconstitutional. Every judge who teaches law school students would be silenced by this broad restriction on speech.
Staver called the restriction “a flagrant violation of the free speech rights of Justice Parker.”
“He is a current candidate for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and this judicial canon stands as an unconstitutional impediment to actively discussing matters of grave public concern to Alabama voters,” Staver said. “Justice Parker is entitled to speak his mind on the current state of the judicial branch during his candidacy, and Liberty Counsel will continue to defend him until he is no longer chilled in his First Amendment rights.”
WND reported months ago when it appeared the attempt to silence Parker by liberals was backfiring.
The left-wing activists had complained about Parker when he was interviewed on American Family Radio about the Obergefell same-sex “marriage” case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
SPLC claimed state rules and regulations forbid the judge from commenting on any case.
But the judge responded with a lawsuit of his own contending such restrictions on speech violate his rights. And now, while the SPLC complaint has been dismissed, it appears Parker’s complaints are moving forward.
Consequently, the state’s speech limits could be struck down.
‘Can you believe this?’
SPLC’s hate list recently has caused trouble for the organization. At one point it briefly put Dr. Ben Carson, former GOP candidate for president, on its list of “haters” because of his views on marriage. But SPLC quickly backed down after a flood of criticism.
SPLC’s agenda also has been criticized as “incredible” by Rev. Franklin Graham, CEO and president of both Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
“A hate group? Can you believe this – the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., has labeled a number of Christian groups such as D. James Kennedy Ministries, and the Family Research Council run by my good friend Tony Perkins as ‘hate’ groups. Why?” he wrote on a Facebook post.
SPLC’s designation of Christian ministries that promote traditional values as “hate groups” has played a role in two attempts at mass murder.
In June, SPLC supporter James Hodgkinson shot Rep. Steve Scalise., R-La.; Zach Barth, a staff member for Congressman Roger Williams; former congressional staff member Matt Mika; and two U.S. Capitol Police officers at a practice for a charity baseball game.
SPLC had demonized Scalise for promoting white supremacy and inferred “that Rep. Scalise is a so-called ‘hater.'” Hodgkinson had “liked” SPLC’s Facebook page.
SPLC also was linked to domestic terror through Floyd Lee Corkins, who cited SPLC as his inspiration for his going to the Washington offices of the Family Research Council, armed with a gun, intending to kill as many people as he could. He was stopped by a security guard, who was injured.
WND reported a video showed Corkins entering the FRC offices and confronting Leo Johnson.
Both Liberty Counsel and D. James Kennedy Ministries have gone to court over SPLC’s charge they are “hate” organizations.
SPLC has been so extreme, it also got into trouble with the Disciplinary Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel of the Department of Justice under President Obama.
There, SPLC lawyers were sharply rebuked and reprimanded for employing its “hate group” on a conservative advocacy group. The counsel stated that using SPLC’s map “overstepped the bounds of zealous advocacy and was unprofessional.” It continued that such behavior is “uncivil” and “constitutes frivolous behavior and does not aid the administration of justice.”
Just days ago, talk radio superstar Rush Limbaugh criticized SPLC as “perhaps one of the biggest hate groups on the left.”
“They tar and feather and slander right-wing groups and call them hate groups,” he said. “They’ve got a map on their website, and whenever a right-wing group that says or does anything that the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is a bunch of leftist freaks, all you have to do is disagree with them and you are called a hater.”
Several organizations that quoted the SPLC’s criticism of conservative organizations also have been named in lawsuits or complaints.