SCOTUS Justices Decline Defamation Appeal Against AmazonSmile

The Supreme Court turned down the opportunity to review an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Monday. The court majority’s decision leaves intact a ruling against a Christian ministry and media corporation as to its defamation claim against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a racial justice foundation based in the South, as well as an uncontested religious discrimination claim against Inc. and the AmazonSmile Foundation.

Plaintiff Coral Ridge Ministries Media, filed suit after AmazonSmile, Amazon’s non-profit affiliate that allows customers to donate a portion of their purchase to eligible charities, denied its application for registration as a charity, as described in previous coverage.

In particular, Coral Ridge took issue with the SPLC’s characterization of it as an “Anti-LGBT hate group” because of of the Christian organization’s opposition to homosexuality. Based on the classification, AmazonSmile declined its application for charitable status. Coral Ridge sued for defamation and discrimination, arguing that although it holds certain views on homosexuality, it is not a hate group.

The Eleventh Circuit upheld the district court’s dismissal of the case. The panel found that Coral Ridge failed to plead “actual malice” in accusing SPLC of labeling it as a hate organization. Additionally, the panel tossed the claim against Amazon, finding that Coral Ridge’s proposed application of Title II of the Civil Rights Act would impermissibly modify the content of Amazon’s expression by compelling donation to an entity it did not wish to promote, the opinion reasoned. 

Coral Ridge’s petition for a writ of certiorari asked the nation’s high court to reconsider its defamation claim while amici weighed in, urging the court to take up the case.

Coral Ridge is represented by Weber, Crabb & Wein P.A. and The National Center for Life and Liberty, SPLC by Ballard Spahr LLP, and Amazon by  Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.