A ruling by the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday significantly limited a lawsuit brought against Jews for Jesus by a Jewish woman who said the organization falsely reported her conversion experience in a ministry newsletter that also appeared on the Internet.
The Florida high court ruled that state law does not recognize “false light invasion of privacy” as a cause for legal action in the case that disputed the validity of a West Palm Beach woman’s salvation testimony.
“We conclude that false light is largely duplicative of existing torts but without the attendant protections of the First Amendment,” wrote Justice Barbara Pariente for the 5-0 majority in Jews for Jesus v. Edith Rapp. Two justices did not participate.
The case stems from a lawsuit Edith Rapp filed after her husband's death in 2003. Her stepson is a Jews for Jesus missionary, and after a visit with his terminally ill father he wrote in an organization newsletter that he had persuaded his Jewish stepmother to pray with him, ask for forgiveness and accept Jesus.
The newsletter also appeared on the Internet. "Pray for Edie's faith to grow and be strengthened," he wrote. "And please pray for my father Marty's salvation."
Rapp denied the events ever took place and said she and her husband were traditional Jews opposed to his son's involvement in Jews for Jesus. She accused the organization of falsely portraying her as a convert and doing so without permission. She alleged false light invasion of privacy, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A lower court dismissed her claims, but Rapp appealed, and the appeals court asked the Florida Supreme Court to rule on whether false light is recognized in Florida. Because the court rejected false light but four of the five justices agreed to quash the lower court’s dismissal of Rapp’s defamation claim, the case will return to the appeals court for further proceedings.
Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel, which is representing Jews for Jesus, called the ruling “a landmark decision for free speech.”
“The First Amendment needs breathing room,” said Staver, who is also dean of the Liberty University School of Law. “False light invasion of privacy claims choke the First Amendment. To remain alive and well, speech needs to be free and robust. To allow one person to silence another, merely because truthful words offend, would result in no freedom at all."
Although Rapp’s defamation claim is back in play, Staver said he is confident his client will prevail. He argues that Rapp’s attorney can’t prove that she never made those statements to her stepson or that her character and reputation were damaged as a result of the comments published in the newsletter.
To contact us or to submit an article, click here.
Get Charisma's best content delivered right to your inbox! Never miss a big news story again. Click here to subscribe to the Charisma News newsletter.
Five ways to deepen your relationship with God, increase your faith and save money!
- Deepen Your Relationship with God with a FREE eCourse: Click Here to view all of our free e-Courses. Favorite topics include Fear, Forgiveness, Holy Spirit, Supernatural, and How to Hear God.
- Super Discounts and Close-Out Specials: Click Here to view all our bundles and close-out specials and save up to 86%! Prayer, Holy Spirit, Anointing, the Supernatural and more.
- God Wants to Anoint Women Now: Rise up and enter the anointing of Deborah, Anna, Esther, Ruth and Hannah. You were called to go higher. Click Here to learn more.
- Change Your Atmosphere and Circumstances Through Prayer! John Eckhardt's prayer bundle gives you six powerful books to help you pray and change any situation. Click Here.
- HUGE Bible Sale!: Click Here to save up to 50% off a great selection of Bibles. Plus, get a free gift with each order!
Attention Pastors and Leaders: Leadership training and development are crucial for success. Enroll in a FREE 1-hour leadership mini-course by Dr. Mark Rutland. View Details