GuideStar Brief Filed

Apr 11, 2018

Liberty Counsel filed a brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit arguing that GuideStar’s false and defamatory “hate group” label it placed on Liberty Counsel’s profile comes within the federal law known as the Lanham Act.

Liberty Counsel sued GuideStar under the Lanham Act, which prohibits making false and misleading characterizations of a group’s goods or services. The district court dismissed the complaint, holding that GuideStar’s profile of Liberty Counsel did not violate the Lanham Act because it did not represent commercial speech. That ruling was based on an incorrect view of the law and the allegations pled in the suit. When GuideStar placed the “hate group” label on Liberty Counsel and more than 40 other nonprofit organizations, the same page solicited financial payments to enhance GuideStar membership. Moreover, GuideStar intended to cause financial harm to Liberty Counsel and the other nonprofit groups.

Liberty Counsel argues that because GuideStar included a commercial advertisement and promotion for its paid subscription services on Liberty Counsel’s profile, and because it admitted that its entire motivation for adopting the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)’s false and defamatory “hate group” label was economic, the district court was incorrect in finding that such speech was not commercial.

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