LYNCHBURG, Va. (CN) – A drywall constructor who ran a Christian home school and ministry out of his Lynchburg residence claims in court that a group of internet bloggers defamed him when it circulated accusations he sexually abused a student.
Plaintiff Rickey Boyer operates Character Concepts, formerly known as The Learning Parent,out of his home with his wife Marilyn.
According to a complaint filed in the federal court in Lynchburg on April 14, A student of his ministry, Ashley Easter, posted a series of blogs last year in which she claimed Boyer sexually abused her.
In the blog, Easter claimed Boyer repeatedly forced her to hug and kiss him and otherwise harassed her.
Easter’s blogs were picked up by Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out and individual defendant bloggers Natalie Greenfield, Brenda Rodgers, Jory Micah Peterson and Nate Sparks who repeated Easter’s accusations and amplified them.
“Defendant Sparks goes far beyond simply republishing Easter’s words. Sparks’ article is entitled ‘Ashley Easter tells her story of being sexually preyed upon by Rick Boyer Sr.’ Sparks’ words falsely defame plaintiff as a sexual predator in their own right,” the complaint states. “Nowhere in Easter’s April 15, 2016 post does she claim that plaintiff sexually preyed upon her. Sparks’ words are his own statement of fact, not a republication.”
Defendant Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out describes itself as a resource of information for parents on child abuse, mental health and LGBT students’ needs. Boyer says it helped traffic the libelous articles about him by re-tweeting the content on social media.
Defendants Greenfield and Petersen also re-tweeted Easter’s alleged expose on Boyer, the complaint says.
“Neither defendant made any effort to contact plaintiff or otherwise to investigate the truth or falsity of Easter’s claims,” the complaint states.
Boyer says the negative attention generated by Easter’s posts has turned his Bible-based home school for children upside down. The lion’s share of the school income comes through internet sales. Proceeds from their online sales were used to fund the ministry’s speaking tours, he said. Boyer maintains the reputation of his school and ministry have been ruined.
Boyer seeks compensatory damages totaling $789,000 and punitive damages of $300,000.
Boyer declined to comment on the lawsuit when contacted by Courthouse News. Representatives of the defendants did not respond to a request for comment.