Woman's suit against Jews for Jesus gets another chance

Palm Beach Post/November 1, 2006
By Michael LaForgia

A Delray Beach woman whose lawsuit against the Jews for Jesus group was thrown out last December will get another chance to make her case, an appeals court decided today.

Edith Rapp sued Jews for Jesus, a California-based group that aims to convert Jews to Christianity, after her stepson, Bruce Rapp, published in an Internet newsletter what she said was a made-up account of her conversion to the organization.

A Circuit Court judge dismissed Rapp's lawsuit last year, but the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed part of that ruling Wednesday, citing statewide ambiguity around a portion of the lawsuit dealing with false light invasion of privacy claims.

"This is great news for us," said Rapp's attorney, Barry Silver.

Attorneys with the Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit representing Jews for Jesus, were "strongly" considering appealing to the Florida Supreme Court, chief counsel Erik Stanley said.

"We are considering our options about the remaining claims that the court has let stand," Stanley said.

Postscript: The Florida Supreme Court later ruled on the legal issue of "false light," which allows individuals to sue media organizations over accurate news accounts that they claim portray them in a bad manner. Edith Rapp claimed in her false-light and defamation lawsuit against "Jews for Jesus" (JFJ) that her stepson wrongly proclaimed in the organization's online newsletter that she had converted to fundamentalist Christianity. Attorneys for JFJ argued that calling Edith Rapp "a Jewish believer" was not specifically defamatory because that description is vague enough that it would not be generally considered "highly offensive to a reasonable person." The Florida Supreme Court therefore rejected the claim, noting that most injured plaintiffs can recover damages by simply claiming defamation. Justice Barbara Pariente wrote, Because false light is so vague it has an enormous potential for chilling free speech.(Palm Beach Post Editorial October 29, 2008).

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