Tennessee Non-Profits File Amicus Brief in Coral Ridge Ministries SCOTUS Petition Against Amazon

The Family Action Council of Tennessee Inc. (FACT) and Constitutional Government Defense Fund (CGDF) have weighed in on the case against the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for defamation and against Amazon.com Inc. and the AmazonSmile Foundation for religious discrimination.

Plaintiff Coral Ridge Ministries Media sued the defendants after AmazonSmile denied its application for donation eligibility, owing to Coral Ridge’s placement on the SPLC’s “Hate Map,” which geographically depicts entities characterized as hate groups, and in this case, Coral Ridge as anti-LGBTQ.

The petition comes after the Eleventh Circuit dismissed Coral Ridge’s claims in July. The defamation cause of action against the SPLC was not pleaded with actual malice, the court said. The religious discrimination claim failed because the court classified Amazon’s choice of charitable eligibility through AmazonSmile as expressive conduct. Applying Title II of the Civil Rights Act would impermissibly modify the content of Amazon’s expression by compelling donation to an entity it does not wish to promote, the opinion concluded.

Coral Ridge appealed the defamation claim to the nation’s high court in late November, arguing that it should reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the ruling which implemented the actual malice element. Earlier this month, both the SPLC and Amazon waived their rights to respond.

Tuesday’s amicus brief explains that FACT “seeks to educate citizens and state legislators on public policies that address most closely who we are as human beings,” while CGDF “aim[s] to vindicate the historic constitutional role and jurisdiction of the state to protect innocent human life, the institution of marriage and family, and other community interests served by traditional state police power regulations.”

The amici explain that the “long-neglected” Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution establishes that “the enumeration of certain rights herein shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.” The brief contends that Sullivan overlooks the Ninth Amendment, which “precludes an interpretation of the freedom of speech and of the press that would deny or disparage the fundamental right at common law to be secure in one’s reputation.”

The brief ultimately asks the court to “remediate this error of interpretation, grant the Ninth Amendment its rightful guiding role in the Court’s rights jurisprudence, and restore the fundamental common law right of a person to defend and vindicate in law his reputation against defamation.”

The amici are represented by the Constitutional Government Defense Fund