Liberty Counsel

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  • Founded: 1989
  • Founder: Mathew D. "Mat" Staver
  • Type 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
  • Legal status: 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization [not required to disclose donors]
  • Headquarters: Maitland, Florida, United States
  • Services: Pro bono assistance and representation
  • Chairman: Mathew D. Staver
  • President: Anita L. Staver
  • Secretary: Candice McGuire
  • Treasurer: Robert Miller
  • Revenue (2015): $5,572,566
  • Expenses (2015): $5,263,709
  • Employees (2014): 38
  • Volunteers (2014): 264
  • Website:
  • Liberty Council is a member of the ultra secretive and powerful Council for National Policy.

    Liberty Counsel is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that promotes litigation related to evangelical Christian values. Liberty Counsel was founded in 1989 by its Chairman Mathew D. "Mat" Staver and its President Anita L. Staver, who are attorneys and married to each other. The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed Liberty Counsel as an anti-LGBT hate group, a designation the group has disputed.


    Liberty Counsel started as a religious liberty organization that focused its litigation efforts on freedom of speech cases.

    Positions and responses

    Liberty Counsel agreed with the former U.S. military policy "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that banned personnel from openly identifying as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. The group opposes the addition of sexual orientation, gender identity, or similar provisions to hate crimes legislation, including the anti-lynching bill passed unanimously by the Senate in 2018. It also opposes same-sex marriage and same-sex civil unions.

    Liberty Counsel has been listed as an anti-gay group by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In October 2015, SPLC listed the group as a hate group, in part for opposing LGBT individual's participation in the Scouts and for Liberty Counsel's leadership implicitly comparing gay men to pedophiles. Liberty Counsel has challenged that designation and the Associated Press' reporting of that designation. FOX News referred to that designation as a "smear".

    In June 2017 Liberty Counsel sued GuideStar USA, Inc. [] -- an information service specializing in reporting on U.S. nonprofit companies, for flagging it as having been labeled a hate group by the SPLC. In January 2018, a Virginia Federal judge dismissed Liberty Counsel's legal action and ruled that GuideStar has First Amendment protection for its "expressive right to comment on social issues." The SPLC was not named in the lawsuit. GuideStar removed the labels from the entries for Liberty Counsel and 45 other organizations shortly after adding them, saying: "Dismayingly, a significant amount of the feedback we've received in recent days has shifted from constructive criticism to harassment and threats directed at our staff and leadership. With this development in mind-driven by both our commitment to objectivity and our concerns for our staff's wellbeing -- we have decided to remove the SPLC annotations from these 46 organizations for the time being."


    In 2000, Liberty Counsel threatened legal action against a public library in Jacksonville, Florida after the library held a party that featured readings from Harry Potter books and distributed "Hogwarts' Certificate of Accomplishment" to the children who attended. Staver said, "Witchcraft is a religion, and the certificate of witchcraft endorsed a particular religion in violation of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause."

    In December 2005, Liberty Counsel issued a press release accusing an elementary school in Dodgeville, Wisconsin, of changing the lyrics of Christmas songs to make them more secular, and said that it would sue the school district "if the district does not immediately remedy the situation." The school was putting on the play "The Little Tree's Christmas Gift", written by Dwight Elrich, a former church choir director. The Dodgeville school district attempted to seek a retraction and an apology from Liberty Counsel, as well as reimbursement of $20,000 spent in personnel, security, and attorney fees to fight the accusation. Liberty Counsel's Staver refused, asserting, "There is nothing to apologize for or retract."

    Liberty Counsel represented Dixie County, Florida against the American Civil Liberties Union in a 2007 lawsuit involving a Ten Commandments monument.

    In November 2015, a Wisconsin school cancelled plans to read the book "I am Jazz," by Jessica Herthel and transgender teen Jazz Jennings after Liberty Counsel threatened a lawsuit. The planned reading had been to help the students comprehend what one of their fellow students was going through and to give her support. In response to the cancellation, a public reading of the book was held at the local library the following month, an event that drew an attendance of almost 600 people. This led to similar reading events held in dozens of public schools, churches, community centers, and libraries in eight states on January 14, 2016, and then the recurring annual event "Jazz & Friends", backed by the National Educational Association and the Human Rights Campaign.

    In July 2016, Liberty Counsel lobbied the Romanian Constitutional Court for a referendum on defining marriage as "the union between one man and one woman." Groups linked to the Orthodox Church and united under the umbrella Coaliția pentru familie (Coalition for Family) collected 3 million signatures to seek the constitutional amendment.



    Liberty Counsel's founder was dean of Liberty University School of Law for eight-and-a-half years. He worked to start the school with Rev. Jerry Falwell.

    Related organizations

    Liberty Counsel currently or previously had interlocking boards with several related organizations.

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