On Monday, the Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration released the names of more than 650,000 beneficiaries that received forgivable federal loans though the Paycheck Protection Program, and many include organizations labeled as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including Staver’s Liberty Counsel.
According to the list, the Maitland-based Liberty Counsel received between $350,000 and $1 million on April 27, from Seacoast National Bank, and reportedly retained no jobs. Frustratingly, the Small Business Administration's release of PPP data only gives the ranges, not exact amounts, of the loans. (Don't know about you, but the difference between $350K and a million feels pretty significant to us.)
We have reached out to the Liberty Counsel for comment, and will update this post if the organization responds.
On April 8, the Liberty Counsel actually released a how-to guide for religious organizations to apply for PPP loans, which you can read here. The guide outlines not only how to apply for the loans, but also how to avoid paying them back, and lists some loopholes for discrimination. The guide also stated that nonprofits with similar political agendas to the Liberty Counsel should have no ethical qualms with taking the money.
The Liberty Counsel is labeled a “hate group” by the SPLC, which highlights the group’s numerous anti-LGBTQ stances, for instance: their position that allowing homosexuals into the Boy Scouts of America will increase pedophilia, their advocacy for the criminalization of gay marriage, and their belief that same-sex marriage will somehow result in the total destruction of society.
However, Staver is probably best known for representing Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay people back in 2015.
More recently, Staver also represented Tampa evangelical pastor and conspiracy theorist Rodney Howard-Browne, who was arrested for refusing to close his megachurch amid local shutdown orders regarding the coronavirus pandemic. On May 15, the charges of unlawful assembly and violating quarantine orders were dropped, and Howard-Browne resumed services at The River at Tampa Bay Church. However, services are now held outdoors in his parking lot to protect his congregation from “government tyranny,” says Howard-Browne. In fact, Staver later admitted in a Facebook Live video, the church lost its insurance.But the Liberty Counsel wasn’t the only far-right group that received forgivable federal dollars. At least six extremist organizations scored between $2,350,000 and $5,700,000 in total PPP loans, including anti-immigrant groups like the Center for Immigration Studies and the Federation for Immigration Reform, the anti-Muslim group Center for Security Policy, and the anti-LGBTQ group the Pacific Justice Institute.
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