Brief: Telling the truth isn’t defamation

Alliance Defending Freedom, allied groups ask 6th Circuit to dismiss lawsuit against Susan B. Anthony List
Friday, March 21, 2014

Attorney sound bite:  Casey Mattox

CINCINNATI — Alliance Defending Freedom, Bioethics Defense Fund, and Life Legal Defense Foundation filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit that argues a defamation lawsuit against Susan B. Anthony List is baseless because the pro-life group only told the truth.

Former U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus filed a defamation case against SBA List after it publicized that his vote for Obamacare was a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion. After an Ohio federal court dismissed Driehaus’s complaint, he appealed to the 6th Circuit.

“Telling the truth isn’t defamation. Obamacare permits taxpayer funds to be used for abortions, and that’s simply a fact,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Casey Mattox. “If the exposure of that fact was part of what cost Rep. Driehaus his job, that’s because his constituents, like most Americans, reject taxpayer-funded abortion.”

“It is a bedrock principle of law that only false statements may form the basis of a defamation claim…,” the brief states. “SBA List’s assertions were and are demonstrably and unequivocally true…. Therefore, assertions equating a political candidate’s vote for the ACA with a vote for taxpayer-funded abortion are truthful.”

Obamacare authorizes taxpayer funding of abortions in high-risk pools, community health funds, subsidies for private health plans, and in other ways.

During the 2010 elections, SBA List made public statements and sought to erect billboards stating that Driehaus’s vote for Obamacare was a vote “for taxpayer-funded abortion.” Driehaus filed a complaint with the Ohio Election Commission under an Ohio law prohibiting false speech about the voting record of candidates. The commission ordered SBA List to cease the statements while it investigated, but Driehaus dropped his complaint after the election. SBA List then challenged the Ohio law in federal court, arguing that it permitted government officials to censor political speech. Driehaus responded by suing SBA List for defamation.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether SBA List can challenge the Ohio law on First Amendment grounds, with a decision expected by June. Bioethics Defense Fund originally filed the arguments contained in the friend-of-the-court brief in that portion of the case.

“This brief chronicles the history of how abortion was allowed and then implemented in Obamacare,” said Bioethics Defense Fund Senior Counsel Dorinda Bordlee. “Every member of Congress was repeatedly advised that taxpayer funding of abortion could only be avoided by including a Hyde-like amendment in the Affordable Care Act. Pro-life groups were right from the beginning that President Obama’s executive order was meaningless. No group should be subject to defamation lawsuits simply for having the courage to say the emperor has no clothes.”

Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorneys David R. Langdon and Robert A. Destro are co-counsel representing Susan B. Anthony List in the case, Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus.

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization that advocates for the right of people to freely live out their faith.
 
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