Court Finds Pro-Life Group Not Guilty in Defamation Suit

A U.S. District Court judge ruled that a major pro-life organization is not guilty of defamation against a politician who sued the group two years earlier over losing a re-election bid.

Judge Timothy S. Black of the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division ruled last Friday that the Susan B. Anthony List was not guilty of defamation on First Amendment grounds.

"The law steers far clear of requiring judicial determination of political 'truth,' and does so because of the serious dangers to democracy and the political process that would result from turning the courts into 'truth squads' with respect to core political speech on matters of public concern," reads the decision.

"During the recently passed national elections, citizens were bombarded with political advertisements that the targets of which daily denounced as lies. Who then shall be the arbiter of political truth? Ultimately, in a free society, the truth of political back and forth must be adjudicated in the 'marketplace of ideas.'"

Mallory Quigley, communications director for the Susan B. Anthony List, provided The Christian Post with a statement from the organization's president, Marjorie Dannenfelser.

"While we're pleased with the outcome, this was a protracted legal battle that was taxing on our resources and should never have happened in a country that enshrines free speech," said Dannenfelser.

"The blatant disregard for the First Amendment and the Constitutional right of people to speak out against the actions of those elected to represent them is unacceptable."

In 2010, Democratic Representative Steven Driehaus of Ohio's First Congressional District filed suit against SBA List on the grounds that their aggressive attacks against his views cost him his re-election bid.

Driehaus was one of the Democrats in Congress who opposed a vote on President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act due to an apparent lack of safeguards in the law for restrictions on federal funding of abortions.

When Driehaus changed his position to support the ACA after President Obama promised to keep the safeguards, groups like SBA List denounced him, claiming that he had not properly guaranteed that the restrictions would remain.

While Driehaus had initially filed a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission, he opted to drop the complaint and go through the venue of federal court instead.

"I have chosen to proceed against the SBA List in federal court because the issue at stake goes beyond the purview of the Ohio Elections Commission," said Driehaus in a statement found at Politico.

"As more and more interests are able to anonymously spend unlimited sums of money in attempts to defame public servants and influence our elections, it is imperative that groups such as the SBA List be held to account for their behavior. Lies have consequences."

As the suit continued through the judiciary process, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed an amicus brief on behalf of SBA List.

"The people have an absolute right to criticize their public officials, the government should not be the arbiter of true or false speech, and the best answer for bad speech is more speech," read the ACLU of Ohio's brief.

Quigley of SBA List told CP that former Ohio Rep. Steven Driehaus has 30 days to file an appeal against the decision.

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