'Shady' Group 'Played' Pope During His US Visit
Meet the anti-LGBT group called Liberty Counsel
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2015 6:30 PM CDT
Pope Francis raises the book of the Gospels as he celebrates the opening Mass of the Synod of bishops, in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015.   (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

(Newser) – Pope Francis' encounter with Kim Davis generated much media buzz and some clarification from the Vatican. Now the Daily Beast looks at an anti-LGBT legal group called Liberty Counsel that supported Davis and spun the story in her favor—but the profile is none too flattering. "At the end of the day, the Liberty Counsel is after political expediency," writes Brandon Ambrosino under the headline "The Shady Group That Played Pope Francis." Attorneys Mathew and Anita Staver, a husband-and-wife team, started the nonprofit in 1989 to give pro bono legal help to anyone "dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family," says the Liberty Counsel website. That included Davis, the county clerk who famously refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

After Davis met the Pope, Mat Staver told CBS that Francis "has been following the story of Kim Davis," but told Time he only assumed Francis knew her because "her story has been published worldwide." Liberty Counsel has made other flubs, like claiming that a massive rally in Peru was held in support of Kim Davis, when it was really a prayer rally from 2014. It has also supported gay conversion therapy discredited by science, and been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. But Mat Staver refutes that, telling the Orlando Sentinel that critics will "smear anyone who doesn't condone homosexuality." Meanwhile, the once-small nonprofit has grown into a major organization that has 10 lawyers and raked in over $4 million in 2013. (Read about the anti-gay archbishop who arranged the Francis-Davis encounter.)