Church Youth Group Leaders' Defamation Suit Against Church Held To Be SLAPP

Plaintiffs George Terry and Wendy Terry allege they were falsely accused of having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a minor female in their work as church youth group leaders. Plaintiffs appeal from a judgment and attorney�s fee award, following the granting of a motion to strike the complaint as a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, filed by defendants Davis Community Church, affiliated with United Presbyterian Church in the USA (the Church), Pastor Mary Lynn Tobin, and Church leaders . . . . [P]laintiffs contend this is not an anti-SLAPP case because (1) the lawsuit does not arise from acts in furtherance of the right to petition or free speech regarding a public issue, and (2) plaintiffs will probably prevail on the merits. Defendants cross-appeal from the amount of attorney�s fees awarded to them.

In the published portion of the opinion, we shall conclude the trial court properly granted the anti-SLAPP motion. In the unpublished portion, we affirm the trial court�s award of attorney�s fees and award defendants their reasonable fees for defending against the appeal. We shall therefore affirm the judgment and attorney�s fee award and deny the cross-appeal.

Mr. Terry's email correspondence with the 16-year-old girl, reproduced in the opinion, seriously creeps me out. And the fact that Ms. Terry knew of it and approved of it creeps me out even more. The court's opinion, published yesterday, is Terry v. Davis Community Church, No. C047526, ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (3rd App. Dist.).