June 16, 2009

Be Careful What You Say

"...no one can tame the tongue -
a restless evil, full of deadly poison."
James 3:8

Howard Friedman reports on his Religion Clause blog this morning that "the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court's dismissal of defamation and invasion of privacy claims brought by Rosayln West, a member of the Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis, against two other church members. The suit involves a long e-mail about West that one of the defendants-- Betty Wadlington-- wrote and the other--Jeanette Larkin-- circulated to 89 other members of the Church's "Women of Faith" group. Larkin used her work e-mail-- the Indianapolis police department (also named as a defendant)-- to forward the allegedly defamatory material. The court rejected defendants' claim that adjudicating the matter would require the court to determine matters of religious doctrine. It concluded: "We agree with West that several statements in the letter could be viewed as defamatory without requiring a court to determine any religious questions." One of the statement's in the letter was that West had an "evil spirit." The court concluded that this posed the closest case, but that evil has a secular as well as a religious meaning."