In this case, it was the former, as the former would have to be a member of the “conspiracy theorists” group, which is a fringe, though well-established, group of conspiracy theorists.
The group’s president is David Barton, the former evangelical minister who founded the anti-Semitic conspiracy website WorldNetDaily and who is the author of the book The Greatest Deception.
Barton, who served as the president of the Southern Baptist Convention for almost a decade, said that he and his group’s members were merely exercising their First Amendment rights and that they weren’t “going to be in a position to shut down speech because of political opinion.”
But in this case the definition of the term “conspiracist” was broad enough that even if the conspiracy theory group were a legitimate conspiracy theorist, the definition would be a violation of the First Amendment, according to a brief filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group for civil rights.
“If a conservative commentator, speaker or activist were to advocate for the destruction of the IRS, they would be breaking federal law,” said David Boies, the Southern California-based attorney representing the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the largest Christian denomination in the country.
Boies argued that the SPLC’s definition of “conspire” is a clear violation of its own bylaws.
The SPLC definition of conspiracy, as defined by the organization, is: “To seek to destroy the government or a political organization or to affect its conduct by force or fraud, to commit acts of domestic terrorism, or to interfere with the administration of justice by any means.”
The definition, Boies said, is “one of the most broad and expansive” in the United States.
The definition is also used in the federal law that defines the “hate crime” statute.
But in addition to being a violation, the SPLLC’s argument also goes beyond its own definition and is in conflict with the law.
In a brief that it submitted to the court, the group argues that its interpretation of the definition is correct and that it is “clearly in conflict” with the federal hate crime law, which defines the crime as “the commission of a crime against a person or property by means of an explosive device or firearm.”
The SPLCC also points out that the law specifically prohibits “the conspiracy to commit, aid, abet, or incite an act of domestic violence.”
But Boies argues that the definition includes the “intentional or reckless disregard” of federal hate crimes law, and that the court is correct in finding that the intent or reckless disregarding is not a crime.
“In the context of an ongoing conspiracy to inflict a violence on a federal government employee or official, the conduct of the conspiracy is a crime of domestic and international terrorism under the federal criminal code,” Boies wrote in the brief.
“The conspirators intentionally or recklessly disregarded federal hate criminal laws.”
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in the case this week.