In a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in San Francisco, the Southern Baptist Convention says it has been “inundated” with calls to stop using its trademark to disparage homosexuality.
The denomination, which holds more than 100 million members nationwide, says the use of the trademark, a common reference to homosexuality, violates the First Amendment.
A group of prominent Southern Baptists, led by the Rev. Jim Garlow, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Southern Baptist Legal Defense & Education Fund.
The lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction blocking the use and “intimidation” of the name for the next four years.
It also seeks $75,000 in damages and an injunction to prevent the name from appearing in other Southern Baptist denominations.
In addition to Garlows lawsuit, the denomination also sued the Family Research Council, a conservative group that seeks to redefine marriage and is known for its anti-LGBT positions.
The Family Research Center is an evangelical group that has long been a target of the gay rights movement.
The Southern Baptist Law Center said the lawsuit is “the latest in a series of efforts to stifle Christian-based advocacy.”
“The Southern Baptist Church’s attempts to suppress Christian-owned businesses is an attempt to stymie the voices of Christian-majority citizens, especially Christians who are struggling to protect their rights to life, liberty, and property,” the law center said.
The name was chosen in response to the First Lady’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week” in 2012, where she told the Christian Broadcasting Network, “I think the word ‘homophobia’ is not a pejorative term.
It’s an American term, and I think that is what the Bible teaches, is that homosexuality is not the same as straight or homosexual.
It’s not right.”
She added, “The word ‘heterosexism’ is an American word.
I believe it is an expression of love and compassion.”
The lawsuit seeks to block the use, publication, and advertising of the word “homosexual” by any entity, including the Southern Conference of Bishops, the United Methodist Church, and the Baptist Convention.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has long opposed the use or the advertising of “homophobia” by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, called the lawsuit a “dangerous and unprecedented attack on religious freedom.”
The Southern Baptians also say that the name infringes upon the trademarks rights of the LGBT community.
“The name ‘homophobes’ was chosen to be a reference to the homosexual lifestyle, not the LGBT lifestyle,” said the Southern National Religious Broadcasters.
“Our complaint also challenges the denomination’s use of its own name for ‘gay marriage,'” the lawsuit states.
The complaint notes that “the Southern Baptist Conference’s official website uses the term ‘homophobic’ as a synonym for ‘homophobe.'”
The Southern Conference has been trying to get rid of “gay marriage” as a trademark since 2007, and has proposed the use “prince.”