The Iowa Supreme Court has waded into a controversy about Satan and a small town church in the northeast Iowa town of Shell Rock. A lower court ruled it couldn’t get involved in the church dispute, but the state’s Supreme Court says it is a case that can be heard by the courts. At issue is whether a letter from an ordained minister defamed Jane Kliebenstein, who was a member of the Shell Rock United Methodist Church. The minister wrote that Jane had whispered scornfully to him that the church’s pastor must go, he accused her of “sowing discord” and he referred to Jane as “the spirit of Satan” working in their midst. The letter went on to say Jane was to be stripped of her church office and if she continued to “cause dissension” she would be asked to leave. Jane and her husband sued, saying the letter had damaged her reputation in the community and attacked her “integrity and moral character.” The Iowa Supreme Court ruled the case could be heard in the courts because the phrase “spirit of Satan” has a secular meaning and the letter was sent to folks in Shell Rock who were not members of the church. Now, a lower court will have to hear the case.
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