Saturday, July 04, 2009

Court Dismisses Defamation Claims By Islamic Groups Against Internet Writer

In Kaufman v. Islamic Society of Arlington, (TX Ct. App., June 25, 2009), a Texas state appellate court dismissed a defamation action brought by a group of Islamic organizations brought against the author of an article published on an Internet website. The article criticized "Muslim Family Day" scheduled for Six Flags Over Texas amusement park. The article alleged that the primary sponsor, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), had terrorist ties, and that the event was "nothing but a charade, created to spread hatred, but veiled in a way to make the sponsoring organization look harmless." ICNA was not one of the plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit.

First the court concluded that Front Page Magazine, the Internet site carrying the article, is part of the electronic media for purposes of a procedural rule in Texas that allows an interlocutory appeal when summary judgment is denied a media defendant asserting free speech or free press defenses. The court then concluded that the statements objected to were not ones that were directed towards the groups who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and thus they could not maintain the defamation action.

On July 1, plaintiffs filed a motion to seek en banc rehearing. The Thomas More Society, which represented defendant in the litigation, issued a release last Thursday describing the original lawsuit as frivolous and "an example of the legal jihad being waged by radical Islamic organizations throughout our nation... aimed at stifling the free speech rights of Americans who dare to expose their agenda."