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Defamation in Church: Tubra v. Cook (Oregon)

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In a January 27th, 2010, opinion, the Oregon Court of Appeals decided:

Tim Tubra v. John Michael Cooke and Ron Swor and the International Church Of The Foursquare Gospel, (A134332):

Excerpt:

ARMSTRONG, J.

This case arises from a defamation claim that plaintiff, a former interim pastor, brought against his employer church and two of its officials, and that ultimately resulted in a jury verdict and award of damages in plaintiff’s favor. Plaintiff appeals the subsequent post-verdict judgment granting defendants’ motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), in which the trial court concluded that the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution deprived it of jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute. The issue on appeal is one of first impression for Oregon appellate courts: whether the First Amendment bars recovery for a plaintiff in a claim of defamation that arose from defendants’ statements that plaintiff had misappropriated church funds and was dishonest during his time as pastor. We conclude that, under the circumstances presented here, the First Amendment does not bar plaintiff’s claim. Accordingly, we reverse….” (Read full case.)

See also: Oregon Appeals Court backs former Vernonia pastor in First Amendment case, upholds $355,000 judgment in defamation suit, by Andrew Scoggin, The Oregonian, February 08, 2010