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Thomas More Law Center Helps Widow of Chris Kyle, American Sniper, Hit with $1.8 Million Jury Verdict

A friend of the court brief supporting Taya Kyle, the widow of Chris Kyle, the American Sniper, was filed yesterday afternoon in the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  In the highly controversial case, a Minnesota jury awarded former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura $1.8 million in damages in July 2014.  The verdict included $500,000 in damages for defamation and over $1.3 million dollars in “unjust enrichment” from the proceeds of Chris Kyle’s book, American Sniper.

Richard Thompson, TMLC’s President and Chief Counsel, commented on filing the brief supporting Chris Kyle’s widow:

“This is TMLC’s way of saying thank you to Taya. The Law Center, and especially our senior trial counsel Erin Mersino and her husband, Paul, worked together on the brief, not only to honor Chris Kyle’s heroic sacrifices in service to our nation, but also to honor Taya for the many hardships she had to endure while her husband was deployed defending our Nation. Too often we forget to thank the families of our deployed troops for the hardships and emotional strain they silently endure while their loved ones are deployed in harm’s way.”

The unusual case spawns from a brief passage in the book American Sniper, authored by Chris Kyle where he discusses a confrontation with Jesse Ventura in a California bar where the two men were attending a fellow Navy SEAL’s wake.  The book describes how a man (Ventura) was being loud and disrespectful at the wake, and made anti-American comments insulting the Navy SEALs, stating “You deserve to lose a few.”  Although Ventura is never mentioned by name in the book, Ventura sued Chris Kyle for defamation.  Chris Kyle was tragically murdered before the case was tried, but instead of dropping the lawsuit, Ventura went after Chris Kyle’s widow, Taya.  The Court replaced Taya Kyle as the Defendant in the case as the representative of Chris Kyle’s estate.

Although Chris Kyle could not testify in person on his own behalf due to his tragic death, when Ventura’s lawsuit went to a jury trial last year, his lawyers presented several witnesses who supported the truth of Chris Kyle’s words. The case is now on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit.

The Thomas More Law Center filed a motion to be allowed to file the friend of the court brief with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on March 11, 2015.  Taya Kyle’s attorneys consented to the filing, while attorneys for Ventura refused to consent. Yesterday afternoon (March 17th), the Eight Circuit Court granted the motion.

While TMLC believes that the entire decision of the lower court should be reversed, its brief specifically focuses on why the $1.3 million dollar award for “unjust enrichment” must be reversed.  The brief describes why the lower court erred by allowing unjust enrichment damages in a defamation lawsuit, and that there have been no other cases in the history of our nation that have allowed such damages for a defamation claim.  Further, the brief states that “the damages award for unjust enrichment amount to an impermissible windfall for Ventura that, if permitted to stand, could create precedent that creates a chilling effect on free speech by expanding defamation damages.”

Chris Kyle is a true American hero. TMLC is proud to support Taya Kyle and to honor the memory of Chris Kyle. He is considered the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills.  He bravely served four tours in the Middle East, protecting our country as a Navy SEAL.  Chris Kyle left behind his wife, Taya, and their two children. Chris Kyle’s book American Sniper was adapted into the popular film released this past December and directed by Clint Eastwood. The film, which has obtained box office success, makes no mention of the confrontation with Ventura.

TMLC’s brief was written by the husband and wife team of Erin Mersino, Senior Trial Counsel at the Thomas More Law Center, and Paul Mersino, an attorney and Shareholder at the law firm of Butzel Long, P.C. in Detroit, Michigan, who worked pro bono on the brief.

Click here to read a full copy of the brief

Marine’s Daughter Gets Failing Grade for Refusing Islamic Indoctrination – The Thomas More Law Center Steps In

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) today announced its representation of John Kevin Wood, and his wife Melissa, in their battle with La Plata High School in Maryland over the Islamic indoctrination of their 11th grade daughter in her World History class. Their daughter was required to complete assignments where she had to affirm that “There is no god but Allah” and the other Five Pillars of Islam.

The case gained national attention when the school banned John Wood from entering school property after he objected to the religion of Islam being taught in his daughter’s history class and demanded that she be given an alternative assignment. The school refused. Wood, a former Marine who served in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm and lost friends in that action, saw firsthand the destruction caused in the name of Allah and that Islam is not “a religion of peace;” and he would not budge from his position.

The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC) is a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. TMLC Senior Trial Counsel, Erin Mersino, and Maryland attorney, Michael F. Smith of The Smith Appellate Law Firm, represent the Wood family. Yesterday they filed a request for records relating to the case under Maryland’s Public Information Act.

On October 22, 2014, John Wood discovered that his daughter was being forced to repeat religious tenets of Islam as a part of her World History class assignment. She was required to write how the prophet Muhammad was visited by the Angel Gabriel and preached that there is only one true god, who is Allah. The assignment made her write that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah and that the Qur’an is holy text. The assignment required her to affirm that “Allah is the same god that is worshipped in Christianity and Judaism” and that the “Qur’an is the word of Allah revealed to Mohammad in the same way that Jews and Christians believe the Torah and the Gospels were revealed to Moses and the New Testament writers.” The assignment also forced young women such as the Woods’ daughter, to fill in the following sentences: “Men are the managers of the affairs of women” and “Righteous women are therefore obedient.”

When John Wood discovered the Islamic propaganda and indoctrination, he was rightfully outraged, and that evening unsuccessfully tried to contact the school by phone to voice his objections. Wood witnessed firsthand the destruction caused in the name of Allah and knows Islam is not “a religion of peace.” He served in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and lost friends in that action. On 9-11, Wood responded as a firefighter to the smoldering Pentagon. He refused to allow La Plata High School to subject his daughter to Islamic indoctrination despite the threatened academic consequences.

The next day, October 23rd,Wood had a phone conversation with a La Plata vice principal where he again reiterated his objections to his daughter being indoctrinated into the religion of Islam He asked how the religion of Islam could be taught when schools are prohibited from teaching the religion of Christianity.

The following day, October 24th, John Wood spoke with the high school principal. The principal refused to allow an alternative assignment and threatened that if his daughter, a high school junior with college hopes, did not complete the religious assignment on Islam, she would receive a failing grade.

Commenting on the case, Richard Thompson, TMLC’s President and Chief Counsel stated: “Adding insult to injury, in an arrogant and unnecessary display of power, La Plata’s principal issued a written “No Trespass” notice, which denied this former Marine who stood in harm’s way defending our country including the principal and her staff, any access to school grounds. The school’s actions not only dishonored John Wood’s service, but the service of all men and women in our Armed Forces who defended our nation from Islamic violence. True to his Marine training, John Wood stood his ground. He did not retreat. Yes, his daughter has received a failing grade in her World History Class. But the story is not yet over.”

Florida Federal Judge Bans Enforcement of HHS Mandate

ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, announced that this past Monday, Federal District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Kovachevich of the Middle District of Florida granted its Motion for a Preliminary Injunction barring enforcement of the HHS Mandate.  The motion for a Preliminary Injunction was filed by TMLC on behalf of Plaintiffs Thomas R. Beckwith and his family’s company, Beckwith Electric.

The government claimed that once a business owner chooses to enter into the marketplace or incorporate his business, he surrenders his right to exercise his religious beliefs.

However, Judge Kovachevich’s 37-page decision which mentioned Thomas R. Beckwith’s unique family history—Beckwith’s ancestors arrived on the shores of America in 1626 to escape religious persecution from England — ended with a powerful statement on religious freedom:

 “The First Amendment, and its statutory corollary the RFRA, endow upon the citizens of the United States the unalienable right to exercise religion, and that right is not relinquished by efforts to engage in free enterprise under the corporate form. No legislative, executive, or judicial officer shall corrupt the Framers’ initial expression, through their enactment of laws, enforcement of those laws, or more importantly, their interpretation of those laws. And any action that debases, or cheapens, the intrinsic value of the tenet of religious tolerance that is entrenched in the Constitution cannot stand.” (Emphasis added)

Erin Mersino, TMLC’s lead attorney representing Beckwith, commented, “Tom Beckwith was fighting the Federal Government for the freedom to practice his Southern Baptist faith.  The HHS Mandate would have forced him to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in violation of his religious beliefs or face up to $6 million in annual penalties. Kovachevich’s ruling halts enforcement of the HHS mandate until a final decision is reached in this case.”

 Click here to read Judge Kovachevich’s entire opinion.

Judge Kovachevich’s ruling is the first injunction against the HHS Mandate granted in the State of Florida.  It also marks the twenty-second injunction against the HHS Mandate granted by Federal Courts on religious freedom grounds across the country. The Government is expected to appeal the ruling to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Thomas More Law Center was assisted by local counsel Paul Pizzo and Scott Richards of the firm Fowler White Boggs, P.A. located in Tampa, Florida.

The Attorney General of the State of Florida filed a friend of the court brief in support of the Thomas More Law Center, as did several other Christian organizations, including the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

ABOUT THE THOMAS MORE LAW CENTER:

The Thomas More Law Center defends and promotes America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.  It supports a strong national defense and an independent and sovereign United States of America.  The Law Center accomplishes its mission through litigation, education, and related activities.  It does not charge for its services.  The Law Center is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations, and is recognized by the IRS as a section 501(c)(3) organization.  You may reach the Thomas More Law Center at (734) 827-2001 or visit our website at www.thomasmore.org.