In an opinion released Monday, the Supreme Court declined to revisit a 1964 ruling that put in place a higher threshold for those in the public eye to prove libel.
The justices voted not to hear the case Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Inc. v. Southern Poverty Law Center, with Justice Clarence Thomas authoring the dissenting opinion.
“I would grant certiorari in this case to revisit the ‘actual malice’ standard,” Thomas wrote, saying the opinion lumps Coral Ridge’s Christian ministry in with groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis.
“This case is one of many showing how New York Times and its progeny have allowed media organizations and interest groups ‘to cast false aspersions on public figures with near impunity.'”
In the current case, which the Supreme Court declined to hear, Coral Ridge applied to receive donations through AmazonSmile, a program that allows Amazon customers to contribute to approved nonprofit groups. It later learned it was ineligible for the program after the Southern Poverty Law Center designated it as an “Anti-LGBT hate group” over its religious views concerning human sexuality and marriage.
Coral Ridge failed in lower courts to force the law center to remove the designation from its website. It eventually filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking to revisit the libel standard.
The precedent-setting 1964 New York Times vs. Sullivan ruling created a higher bar for public figures to prove libel claims.
“To sustain a claim of defamation or libel, the First Amendment requires that the plaintiff show that the defendant knew that a statement was false or was reckless in deciding to publish the information without investigating whether it was accurate,” states the primary holding in the original case.
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