MIAMI (CN) - A federal judge dismissed a $5 million defamation lawsuit brought by a self-proclaimed “Islamophobe” who said a Muslim civil rights group slandered him after he posted statements on Facebook that were critical of their religious beliefs and discussed burning mosques to the ground.
David Rosenthal, represented by a University of Miami Law School professor, David Rowe, filed the suit the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Florida, in the Florida's 17th judicial circuit.
As recounted in state Circuit Court Judge Michael Gates' Nov. 8 order, Rosenthal admitted that on June 4, 2015, he took to Facebook to declare that he is an "Islamophobe" and went on to say, "I hate Islam. Islam is repulsive t me. Islam is a contradiction of the doctrine of Christ, a promotion of abominations, and a death cult."
On Jan. 10, 2016, Rosenthal returned to the subject, saying, “Someone remind me of why I should not burn every mosque in my geographical area. O right, I remember now. Let me think about it.”
The defendant council reported on the post, publishing a story on its website titled, “Radical Anti-Muslim Activist with Ties to Congressional Candidate Threatens to Burn Down Mosques in South Florida.”
CAIR posted a subsequent article, “Radical Anti-Islam Activist with ties to Joe Kaufman Threatens to Burn Down Florida Mosques.”
Rosenthal sued the organization and several individuals for three alleged defamation statements in the two articles.
CAIR asked the court to dismiss the case based on a Florida statute, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, which shuts down strategic, “abusive” lawsuits meant to suppress First Amendment Rights. Gates did just that.
CAIR attorney Omar Saleh said in an interview with Courthouse News that the organization would not stoop to "[Rosenthal’s] level by filing a lawsuit, but calling respected members of the community “terrorists” ... is defamatory, per se. We have more important things to do, which are fighting for civil rights of the Muslim community.”
Saleh said the ruling is important, particularly for the Muslim community, because “we’re dealing with a very real threat of mosque burning ... not just CAIR FL, but everyone in the community need to take that seriously.”
Saleh cited the case of Joseph Schreiber, who burnt down an Islamic center in Fort Pierce, Fl., and was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison. “CAIR was involved with law enforcement and media in that case. It’s not a joke when someone posts that because it’s a real threat,” the attorney said.
“David Rosenthal has a history of not just posting anti-Islamist hurrahs ... but engaging conversations about fighting one another,” Saleh said.
“We believe it was clear to the judge that we’re dealing with somebody who really doesn’t have an educated background on what Islam is and what it is not. He [Rosenthal] has a very skewed idea of what it is. You can tell that from his Facebook posts,” Saleh added. “It’s a victory but we don’t believe it’s the end.”
Rowe, who represented Rosenthal, could not be reached by phone or by email for comment.
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