We had a major set-back in our defense against my step-dad pastor’s (Bob Grenier) defamation lawsuit.
The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in California ruled him “not a public figure” despite his multi-state radio program, book, speaking at conferences around the nation and world, etc…and they denied our Anti-SLAPP motion to strike (which would have ended the suit) and he can continue his lawsuit in the lower court.
It is perceived as a big victory by him and his attorney and is certainly a legal set-back for us…but is not a final ruling on the matter in terms of winning or losing the defamation suit. The Court did not rule whether the statements (those we actually made) were untrue beyond a “preponderance of evidence” (previous version said “reasonable doubt”).
We can try to Petition the California Supreme Court (very much a long-shot, slim odds, but not impossible) to review whether or not clergy/pastors are limited purpose public figures. We can fight an old-fashioned defamation suit in the lower court (that will cost a lot of time and money and we don’t have a church and followers behind us to fund us). The most distasteful option for me personally, but an option, is to choke it down and try to settle with something both sides can live with (but I think this option is slim, Bob is very vindictive and despite what he preaches from the pulpit, he’s about as hateful and vengeful a person as you’ll ever meet and he wants blood and money).
We’re in talks with attorneys and planning our next moves. I’ll keep you posted as to significant developments.
Bob is currently doing a victory lap posting bible verses about how God will smite all his enemies and God upholds the righteous etc, typical Bob.
Bob’s attorney, Nick Pritchett, trolled me on a mutual friend’s Facebook page…I’m sure he’d love to see a broken family continue to fight so he can bill his client some fresh Jesus money and put food on his rich table.
Our attorneys are filing some sort of motion in an attempt to correct a factual error in the published Appellate opinion…something I cannot fathom happens very often in a prestigious State like California. The court must’ve missed something as they attributed a quote in their ruling to either me or Tim and concluded their opinion with that online statement…again, something that wasn’t my comment or Tim’s….something we pointed out in the case…something I have emails to back up calling this to the attention of my attorneys, etc…yet there the mistake is in a published opinion. I’ve got no problem standing behind the words I stated (and will)…but how can comments we didn’t make end up in a published opinion in such a credible and big State like California?
Obviously, we’re disappointed with the ruling and disagree…however, the Court is an authority and they saw it Bob’s way (despite the factual error in the opinion of the statement that someone else made online). We accept the decision, minus that error, and we will regroup and figure out what options are available and which of those options is the best from here.
This published opinion is significant because we believe it now defines pretty much all clergy (unless they are national figures like a Billy Graham) as “not” limited purpose public figures…so anyone making comments online that a pastor doesn’t like can be sued with the low bar of Prima Facia…meaning the pastor can simply claim the comment defamed him and sue you without the threat of a high bar of Actual Malice and without the ability to Anti-SLAPP the suit. That’s scary, but that’s what it looks like. That will create quite a chill in the Church Abuse blogging community. My advice is be very careful, you can be easily sued for speaking out publicly about a pastor now…even if that pastor is very public.
Here is an article covering the Appellate Court Decision: