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Meshuggenah lawsuit tossed out on its tuchus

The plaintiff in this case belonged to a cult that has a practice of placing men on a “shun list” in order to convince them to give their wives a divorce. The cult’s newspaper published the husband’s name on its “shun list,” but one of its newspaper reporters mixed up whether it was a an official shun, or just a suggested shun.

Whether or not the statement about the shunning was defamatory or not would have required the court to dig into the specific ecclesiastical rules of this particular cult. American courts don’t do that, and thus the case was dismissed. In affirming the dismissal, the New Jersey Appellate Court gave us our Constitutional poetry of the day:

In affirming the dismissal of all of plaintiff’s claims, we are not unmindful of the consequences of such dismissal. The right to maintain one’s “good name, unimpaired” has its roots in “the essential dignity and worth of every human being – a concept at the root of any decent system of ordered liberty.” Senna v. Florimont, 196 N.J. 469, 479 (2008) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Thus, any order that prevents a plaintiff from pursuing what may well be a meritorious claim for the destruction of his good name imposes a harsh consequence on a plaintiff. However, as Judge Ackerman aptly observed in Klagsbrun, “First Amendment jurisprudence has traditionally ‘called for line drawing’ by the courts to best effectuate its
rather lofty goals.” Klagsbrun, supra, 53 F. Supp. 2d at 737 (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 678, 104 S. Ct. 1355, 1362, 79 L. Ed. 2d 604, 613 (1984)). We are forced here to set the boundary between the secular and the ecclesiastical and, in our view, because plaintiff’s claims cannot be resolved without excessive entanglement into religious beliefs, we are left with no alternative other than the dismissal of plaintiff’s claims. (source)

aaaand another tip o’the hat to Courthouse News

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