Law firm representing Kim Davis declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center

The Liberty Counsel and its leader, Mat Staver, are behind "religious liberty" campaigns in many states

Published October 5, 2015 1:13PM (EDT)

  (AP/Timothy D. Easley)
(AP/Timothy D. Easley)

The Liberty Counsel -- the group that's representing Rowan County, Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis -- has been declared a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Associated Press' Claire Galofaro reports.

According to the SPLC, the group and its leader, Mat Staver, have virulently opposed all LGBTQ rights legislation under the aegis of "religious freedom" -- it's even defended Scott Lively, who "played an instrumental part in the Ugandan parliament’s adoption of a draconian anti-LGBT bill that originally included the death penalty in some instances."

According to Staver, hate crimes legislation is the equivalent of "'thought crimes' laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience" and "have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior."

The Liberty Counsel has come under fire for its management of Davis, first after Staver claimed that an image of 100,000 people in Peru were gathered to pray for Davis -- they were not, a fact for which Staver blamed a "miscommunication" with Peruvian officials -- and later for misrepresenting Davis' meeting with Pope Francis.

Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC, said that "a group that regularly portrays gay people as perverse, diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk are way, way over the line." Staver, not surprisingly, disagreed, saying that "it is irresponsible and reckless to call someone a hate group because you disagree with them."

Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and an ordained minister, told the Associated Press that the group is more interested in garnering its clients publicity than winning their cases.

"I've lost the ability to be surprised at how easy it is to become the next Joan of Arc," he said. "When you make heroes out of people who refuse to accept the rule of law and who fail to acknowledge the dignity of other human beings, you are on a very dangerous path."

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By Scott Eric Kaufman

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Aol_on Homophobia Kim Davis Lgbtq Rights Mat Staver Scott Lively Southern Poverty Law Center Uganda