A Florida man can proceed with a defamation suit against a minister who called him gay and his pending marriage a sham.
A state appeals court is allowing the suit to go forward, the Courthouse News Service reported.
Plaintiff Darrel Bilbrey joined the First Pentecostal Church in South Brevard, Fla., where the Rev. David Myers is the minister.
Myers, according to the suit, sponsored Bilbrey’s attempt to earn a minister’s license and served as a mentor to the younger man.
Myers, at one point in the mentorship, asked Bilbrey about his sexual orientation. Bilbrey said he’s not gay and later he announced plans to marry a woman.
The suit alleges that Myers told church members, including the fiancée’s father, that Bilbrey is gay and only marrying to conceal his sexual orientation.
Myers, according to the complaint, also told Bilbrey to call off the wedding and move away.
Bilbrey did leave Florida for Michigan, where he wanted to work as a minister.
The suit says Myers then called a church in Michigan to out Bilbrey as gay.
Bilbrey since has sued Myers for defamation, invasion of privacy, breach of fiduciary duty and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
A trial court dismissed the complaint, but the appeals court said Bilbrey can pursue his claim of defamation.
The court, according to CNS, said, “The First Amendment does not grant Myers, as pastor of FPC, carte blanche to defame church members and ex-members. If untrue, the statement that a person is a homosexual has long been recognized as potentially defamatory outside the context of any religious doctrine or practice.”