Voris denied - Catholic official's defamation lawsuit going forward
The defamation lawsuit against right-wing Internet media provocateur, Gary Michael Voris, is going forward after a federal judge denied Voris’ attempt to get the case dismissed.
Voris, who goes by Micheal Voris online, is being sued by the Rev. George de Laire, the judicial vicar for the Roman Catholic Diocese of New Hampshire. The lawsuit claims Voris published news videos and articles on his Church Militant website that contains multiple lies about de Laire. The judicial vicar also claims he had been subject to harassment and threats as a result of Voris’ lies.
The lawsuit was filed by de Laire in early February in the United States District Court in Concord. Voris responded by trying to get the suit dismissed, based partially on the fact that he is based in Michigan and therefore any lawsuit ought to be filed in that state.
Voris did not deny he made the defamatory statements in his legal arguments, but instead claimed that New Hampshire is not the proper location for the lawsuit, according to court records. United States District Court Judge Joseph DiClerico found in an order issued on April 1 that the lawsuit is rooted in the Granite State and can go forward in New Hampshire.
“In this case, the defendants targeted de Laire, a resident of New Hampshire, the pastor of a parish in New Hampshire, and a vicar in the Diocese of Manchester,” DiClerico wrote. “Their interest in de Laire arose from de Laire’s professional activities, as a vicar, with the Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire. The defendants’ allegedly defamatory communications pertained to de Laire’s duties as a vicar and his duties as a priest and can be construed to have been intended to harm him in New Hampshire, as well as outside New Hampshire.”
The lawsuit states that Voris started his campaign against de Laire in January of 2019 after the diocese barred the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from calling themselves Catholic and put the group under discipline.
The Slaves appealed the discipline laid out in a Decree of Precepts of Prohibition written by de Laire, but the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome rejected that appeal last year because it was filed after the statute of limitations had run out. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, or CDF, is the Vatican governing body that defends Catholic teaching from heresy and has previously dealt with the Slaves.
Voris and his Church Militant company started covering the issue after the precepts were published, and the diocese advised Catholics in good standing to stay away from the Slaves. Voris, who is based in Michigan, even traveled to New Hampshire to interview members of the Slaves at their compound in Richmond. Voris did not interview de Laire or any priest in the diocese as part of his reporting, according to the lawsuit.
“In an initial article, published in January of 2019, Mr. Voris published multiple knowingly and recklessly false statements concerning Father de Laire’s work performance, his fitness to serve as a member of the clergy, his ethics, and other personal matters. These statements were first published in January of 2019 with no attempt to first interview Father de Laire, with little or no investigation, and despite Defendants knowing that what they were publishing was not true,” the lawsuit states.
In subsequent videos and articles, Voris and Church Militant would claim de Laire is not trusted by other priests in the diocese, that he does not do his own work, and that there have been at least three complaints filed against him. The articles also claim de Laire in known to be incompetent by Catholic officials in the Vatican. According to the lawsuit, none of these assertions is true.
“As with all other of the statements in the article, Mr. Voris did not cite a source for this statement, and, upon information and belief, his allegation was fabricated and not corroborated by anyone in Rome, as Father de Laire has always completed all of his work with utmost competence, once again, as evidence by his reappointment to his roles as Judicial Vicar and Vicar for Canonical Affairs,” the lawsuit states.
Voris’s response filed in court repeats the allegedly defamatory statements he made in the videos. In his response, Voris claims that he cannot be sued in New Hampshire, as neither he nor Church Militant reporter Anita Carey interviewed any sources in New Hampshire who provided the alleged defamatory comments. Voris did come to New Hampshire to interview members of the St. Benedict Center community, but only after Church Militant published the first article, according to Voris’ response.
Voris' motion to dismiss the case, filed last month, also claims he cannot be sued for defamation for repeating the alleged defamatory statements in subsequent articles, citing an unusual legal precedent for the conservative Catholic media mini-mogul:
"Although de Laire contends that the April 15, 2019 video story repeated the allegedly defamatory comments from the January 17, 2019 story, New Hampshire does not recognize a claim for defamation based on 'republication' of allegedly defamatory statements. Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 131 N.H. 6, 8 (1988)." Voris' response states.
Church Militant is politically conservative, likening former President Donald Trump to Emperor Constantine, and it is also known for it’s near “obsessive” focus on homosexuality in society at large and within the Catholic Church, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“Church Militant focuses on homosexuality with an intensity and frequency bordering on obsessive,” the SPLC report states.
Voris has also been criticized for his opinions on Jewish people. He claims that Judaism as it is currently practiced is not real Judaism, and is instead a manmade creation. This helped get him banned from speaking at a Pennsylvania diocese in 2011. His home diocese of Detroit ordered Voris to stop publicly using the word Catholic in this company name, and he changed the name from Real Catholic TV to Church Militant.