Ok…IANAL, but I am significantly interested in law. This is some of the worst reporting I've ever seen on a legal matter:
“What is “the spirit of Satan?” The U.S. Supreme Court may have to answer that question if it accepts a recently appealed Iowa case in which an Iowa woman claimed a pastor defamed her by calling her “the spirit of Satan.” “
Now…first off….the Court has to decide no such thing. This is a libel case, compounded by a bit of church/state stuff. But in no instance does this have to touch on the actual existence of supernatural beings. To me, it looks like the court could simply find that libel is a tort that stands outside seperation of church and state for the purposes of determining if a statement itself is libelous. If someone within a religious denomination wants to insult someone in the same (or a different) denomination with language that offends, I see no reason why that can not be construed as libel. One quick definition of libel found online is: “Libel and slander are legal claims for false statements of fact about a person that are printed, broadcast, spoken or otherwise communicated to others.” Libel being the written instance, slander being the spoken.
NOW…if the Court is going to be forced to consider the truth/falsity of the statements in question, rather than the “intent to harm”….well….they may be in trouble. My guess is that in a case like this, where the language is religious in nature it is the belief of the injured party that will matter. That is, the injured party believes the statement to be true (as well as the defendant, I suppose), so the court could rule that those facts are enough to find libel in this case.
On the other hand, nothing would make me jump around in joy more to see the Supreme Court offer a ruling that said “Can't be libel. No such thing as Satan.” Hahahahahahahaha….