Major News Outlets Fail To Identify The Hate Group Representing Kim Davis

Major news outlets have almost entirely failed to identify Liberty Counsel -- the group defending Rowan County clerk Kim Davis -- as an anti-LGBT “hate group,” often only referring to the group as  a “Christian” or “conservative” legal organization.

Liberty Counsel Is At The Center Of The Kim Davis Controversy

Liberty Counsel Is Representing Kim Davis In Litigation Over Her Refusal To Issue Marriage Licenses. In the legal battle over her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same and opposite-sex couples, Rowan County, Kentucky clerk Kim Davis is being represented at no charge by Liberty Counsel.  [Liberty Counsel, 9/4/15]

Liberty Counsel Has Been Designated A Hate Group By The Southern Poverty Law Center. Liberty Counsel is on the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) list of active anti-LGBT hate groups due to its anti-LGBT extremism. From SPLC's website (emphasis added):

Founded in 1989 and based in Orlando, Fla., the Liberty Counsel is well known for its strident anti-LGBT rhetoric. Mat Staver, the group's president, co-founder and former dean at the Liberty University School of Law, has claimed that with full marriage equality, everyone will decide to be gay and society will “cease to exist.” (He also has linked homosexuality to rampant increases in disease, falsely linked homosexuality to pedophilia and claimed that homosexuality is the result of childhood sexual abuse.) [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/09/15]

  • SPLC Designates Certain Anti-Gay Organizations As Hate Groups Based On Their “Propagation Of Known Falsehoods” And “Groundless Name-Calling” About LGBT People. [Southern Poverty Law Center, accessed 9/10/15]

Liberty Counsel Co-Founder Mat Staver Has A Well-Documented History Of Anti-LGBT Extremism. Mat Staver, the group's co-founder and public face, has a well-documented history of anti-LGBT work and rhetoric. From a recent post by Talking Points Memo (emphasis added):

Attorney Mathew Staver and his wife, Anita, founded Liberty Counsel in 1989. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, added the law firm to its roster of anti-LGBT hate groups in 2014, citing the group's belief that same-sex marriage will destroy the “bedrock of society” and its support for gay conversion therapy.

Staver himself went as far as to speak approvingly of tough anti-gay laws in foreign countries like Russia in a 2014 appearance on “Faith and Freedom” radio.


Staver's takes on subjects including Mitt Romney and LGBT history month have also been eyebrow-raising. He blamed the former Massachusetts governor's unwillingness to embrace social issues for the legalization of gay marriage in four states, and called public schools' celebration of LGBT figures in history a “sexual assault on our children.”

Most recently, Staver compared Davis' plight to that of Jews in Nazi Germany in an interview on Christian radio network VCY America. [Talking Points Memo, 9/7/15]

Major News Outlets Have Repeatedly Failed To Identify Liberty Counsel As A Designated Hate Group

Associated Press Had Labeled Liberty Counsel A “Christian Firm.” The Associated Press has repeatedly referred to Liberty Counsel as a “Christian firm” in its coverage of the Kim Davis controversy:

  • Mat Staver Is “With The Christian Firm Liberty Counsel.”  [Associated Press, 9/9/15]
  • Davis's Attorneys Are “With The Christian Law Firm Liberty Counsel.” [Associated Press, 9/9/15]
  • Liberty Counsel Is “The Christian Law Firm Representing Davis.” [Associated Press, 9/8/15]  
  • Liberty Counsel Is “The Christian Law Firm Representing The Clerk.” [Associated Press, 8/13/15]

Wall Street Journal Described Liberty Counsel's Focus As On “Religious Freedom Issues.” The Wall Street Journal described the Liberty Counsel as “a nonprofit firm that focuses on religious freedom issues.” [Wall Street Journal9/7/15]

Reuters Repeatedly Characterized Liberty Counsel As “Religious Advocacy Group.” Reuters has frequently identified Liberty Counsel as a “religious advocacy organization” in its Kim Davis reporting:

  • Liberty Counsel Is “A Florida-Based Christian Religious Advocacy Organization.” [Reuters, 9/3/15]
  • Mat Staver Is “The Founder Of Christian Religious Advocacy Group Liberty Counsel.” [Reuters, 9/8/15]
  • Liberty Counsel Is A “Non-Profit Legal Advocacy Group.” [Reuters, 9/8/15]
  • Kim Davis Is “Being Legally Represented At No Cost By Liberty Counsel, A Florida-based Christian Religious Advocacy Organization.” [Reuters, 9/3/15]
  • Liberty Counsel “Provides Pro Bono Representation Related to Issues Of 'Religious Freedom, The Sanctity Of Life And The Family.'” [Reuters, 8/13/15]

The New York Times Referred To Liberty Counsel As A Conservative Group. Though The New York Times has occasionally noted the group's history of anti-LGBT activism, the paper repeatedly described Liberty Counsel as a conservative legal group in its reporting on Kim Davis:

  • Liberty Counsel Is “A Nonprofit Organization... That Specializes In Religious Exceptions Cases.” [The New York Times, 8/14/15]
  • Liberty Counsel Is “A Conservative Group.” [The New York Times,9/1/15]
  • Mat Staver Is The “Founder And Chairman Of Liberty Counsel, The Conservative Legal Group Representing Ms. Davis.” [The New York Times9/4/15]    
  • Liberty Counsel Is “A Legal Nonprofit That Has Been On The Front Lines Of The Same-Sex Marriage Fight For Roughly Two Decades.” [The New York Times, 9/2/15]

The Washington Post Repeatedly Identified Liberty Counsel As A “Christian Legal Organization.” Though the Washington Post once identified Liberty Counsel as an “anti-LGBT hate group,” the paper typically referred to Liberty Counsel as a “Christian” legal group:

  • Liberty Counsel Is “A Christian Legal Aid Group.” [The Washington Post9/1/15 
  • Mat Staver Is “The Founder And Chairman Of Liberty Counsel, The Christian Legal Organization Representing Davis. [The Washington Post9/4/15]
  • Mat Staver Is “With The Christian Firm Liberty Counsel.” [The Washington Post9/9/15]
  • Liberty Counsel Has Been Labeled An “Anti-LGBT Hate Group.” [The Washington Post9/2/15