Silver Spring, MD asked in Civil Rights and Constitutional Law for Virginia

Q: Can you sue a television show for portraying a person's faith in such a negative light that it damages that religion?

1 Lawyer Answer
Timothy R Johnson
Timothy R Johnson
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Berryville, VA
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: It comes down to the very specific information and portrayals depicted in the tv program, but 99.9% of the time: no. As long as the information presented is truthful, or at least based on a reasonable belief that it's truthful (ex: sources that appear reliable), any depiction is fair.

The same can be said even if it's all negative opinion based. If the interviewers all said, "[X] religion is just a bunch of idiots." That's not actionable since opinions are protected speech and it's not alleging false facts.

To assess any possible claims though, it's important to discuss the specific program aired with an attorney experienced in defamation/First Amendment/privacy tort (false light) contexts.

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