Aug 25, 2017
GREENSBURG, LA – Today, the 21st Judicial District Court awarded Liberty Counsel over $55,000 in attorney’s fees and costs for the defense of Reverend Richard Sandberg for a lawsuit brought by a local strip club owner to silence his efforts to advance moral policy in St. Helena Parish.
On July 31, 2013, Tyrone Butler, the owner of a local strip club in St. Helena Parish, filed a lawsuit against Reverend Sandberg and his organization, The Moral Alliance of St. Helena. Reverend Sandberg and other local pastors associated with his group were petitioning the local legislature to adopt a proposed ordinance regulating the behavior of patrons and employees of strip clubs and other sexually oriented businesses in St. Helena Parish.
As a result of Reverend Sandberg’s efforts to advance a moral agenda in the legislative body, Butler filed a harassing lawsuit against Reverend Sandberg saying that he had defamed Butler and his business. However, it was Butler who was behaving in a harassing manner. Many of the pastors and religious community members speaking in support of the regulation of strip clubs were intimidated, harassed and confronted in public places by Butler. At a gas station in St. Helena, Butler approached one of the pastors, threatened to physically assault him and his family if he did not stop supporting the ordinance. The same day Reverend Sandberg was served with the complaint at his home, his dog was poisoned and died.
Liberty Counsel filed a special motion to strike the complaint, arguing that the First Amendment protects Reverend Sanberg’s speech to public officials and that he was entitled to encourage the local legislature to reject Butler’s harassment and bullying. The court granted Liberty Counsel’s motion and dismissed the complaint against Reverend Sandberg.
“Today, Liberty Counsel puts the final nail in the coffin of this bully’s lawsuit and sends a reverberating message that pastors will not be intimidated into silence,” said Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. “We want everyone to know that speaking up for moral and biblical values cannot, and will not, be silenced. Those who seek to intimidate, harass, and bully pastors and religious leaders should receive a strong message today that such efforts will not be tolerated and will come with a heavy price,” said Staver.
Liberty Counsel is an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family since 1989, by providing pro bono assistance and representation on these and related topics.