Iowa Church Sues Houston Church for Libel Over Marriage Between 63-Year-Old Pastor and 19-Year-Old Congregant
A large church in Des Moines, Iowa, is suing a church and advocacy group in Texas for libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit, originally filed in state court in Iowa then removed to federal court, relates to a relationship between Bishop Dwight Reed, leader of Christ Apostolic Temple, and a member of his congregation who was 19 when the 63-year-old married her.
Bishop Demetrius Sinegal, pastor of The Kingdom Church in Houston and also founder of Safehouse Unmuzzled, called for an investigation of Reed earlier this year.
Although Reed’s wife was not a minor when the marriage took place, Sinegal and others allege Reed may have used his position of authority when he counseled her at the church’s school to influence her.
According to reporting by the Iowa Capital Dispatch, Reed claims in the lawsuit that Sinegal portrayed Reed as a “child predator” who “groom[ed] a teenager,” leading his wife to marry him against her will. He further alleges Sinegal engaged in a campaign to smear the couple and church over the marriage.
The lawsuit claims Sinegal’s criticism of Reed, which included Facebook posts, YouTube videos, podcasts, and other social media posts, led to a decline in membership and tithing at Christ Apostolic Church and threats and harassing phone calls and messages aimed at Reed.
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The church is seeking unspecified damages from Sinegal and The Kingdom Church.
In April, Reed posted a press release announcing initiation of a civil lawsuit against Sinegal.
“Everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, no one is entitled to conduct a malicious attack based on outright lies,” the press release said.
The Kingdom Church filed an answer to the complaint on October 28.
In it, Sinegal denies he made false allegations against Reed and asserted affirmative defenses: (1) that the accusations were true; (2) that some of the statements were opinion; and (3) that Reed is a public figure subject to a different standard.