BALTIMORE (CN) – A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Baltimore lawyer against the Southern Poverty Law Center, finding the civil rights group did not defame him when it exposed his ties to a neo-Nazi group through a “hate map.”
The case dates back to 2015 when the SPLC got a tranche of documents from an accountant who worked for alleged white supremacist group National Alliance, according to Wednesday’s ruling.
Those documents included names, receipts and other information about the group’s member, including who paid membership dues and other fees associated with attending the group’s events.
SPLC took that data and published it in their annually updated “hate map,” which documents cases of hate-motivated groups and violence across the country.
Among the names published was Glen K. Allen, a contractor in the city of Baltimore’s legal department. The group published a picture of him alongside the words, “When the City of Baltimore recently hired Glen Keith Allen, a neo-Nazi, nobody knew of his involvement with the white supremacist group, except for us.”
An August 2016 article from the SPLC reported on Allen’s ties to National Alliance, including receipts for dues payments, and also claimed that a political party he donated to, the American Eagle Party, was “racist.”
Allen was fired by Baltimore City Law Department after the article was published. He filed an 81-page federal lawsuit in December 2018 claiming SPLC defamed him, along with other counts ranging from political interference to unjust enrichment. He sought over $6 million in damages.
But in an 18-page opinion Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake dismissed the complaint and ruled in favor of the civil rights group.
“The August 17, 2016, article and 2016 Hate Map are protected by the First Amendment,” the Bill Clinton appointee wrote. “First, Allen does not allege that the factual statements in them are false. Second, the statements he objects to are non-actionable opinion or hyperbole.”
Allen, who represented himself in the case, did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.
In an emailed statement, Jim Knoepp, general counsel for the SPLC, hailed the ruling and claimed it as another victory for the First Amendment.
“People who work in public institutions should not be able to hide their ties to neo-Nazi groups or other dangerous and hateful ideologies,” he said. “SPLC has a strong track record of not only publishing important work, but defending it in court.”
Allen’s lawsuit isn’t the only defamation case the group has faced over the publication of their hate map. Gavin McInnes, creator of the far-right Proud Boys group, filed suit against the organization in February. That case is ongoing.
In addition, the SPLC paid $3.4 million last year to Muslim activist Maajid Nawaz and his Quilliam organization to settle a threatened lawsuit for the inclusion of the group in the SPLC’s “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.” The group also issued an apology for misunderstanding Nawaz’s work to counter Islamist extremism.