A blog entitled “Survivors of Chesapeake Church” contains some harsh criticism for a local member of the clergy. Rather than use the pulpit, that clergyman, Pastor Robert Hahn, is seeking redress in circuit court.

According to legal documents, last month Hahn and the Huntingtown church he has overseen for more than two decades are suing three individuals, including the pastor’s son-in-law, who collaborated on the blog.

Per court documents, the defendants named in the suit are Mary Britton Laborie of Prince Frederick, Holly Britton Jennings of Rochester, N.Y., and Daniel Palmer of Temple, Texas.

The suit was filed March 18 in Calvert County Circuit Court. The church is being represented by attorneys Stephen A. Oberg, N. Tucker Meneely and Michael L. Adams.

According to court documents, the defamation suit is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $100,000 and includes a request for the issuance of a cease and desist order.

The blog chronicles the defendants’ tales of alleged mistreatment and makes accusations that Hahn lacks the ministerial qualifications to lead the church. One claim is that Chesapeake Church is run by associates handpicked by Hahn rather than a board chosen by the congregation’s membership. One of the blog’s entries also accuses Hahn of covering up an alleged domestic assault by a former church employee and preventing investigation of the incident.

“The statements published by defendants have exposed Pastor Hahn and Chesapeake Church to public scorn, hatred, contempt and ridicule and were intended for that purpose,” documents filed by the plaintiffs stated. “The defamatory statements were published on the World Wide Web and promoted on Facebook to third parties who reasonably recognized the statements therein as being defamatory. The defamatory statements were false.”

The plaintiffs further noted what they called “the defendants’ mistaken belief that the church articles of incorporation from 1985 have never been amended. The church’s affairs have been consistently managed in accordance with Maryland law, its governing documents and the advice of counsel. As he always has, Pastor Hahn serves at the pleasure of the church and its elders, who are elected by the congregation, not ‘hand-picked’ by Pastor Hahn.”

On March 22, the plaintiffs’ ex parte motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction were denied by a circuit court judge.

“The court finds the alleged injuries to plaintiffs are too speculative at this point for the court to determine that plaintiffs will suffer ‘irreparable injury’ if a restraining order is not issued,” Judge Mark Carmean wrote in his order denying the request. “The record does not show the church has lost current or prospective members nor that tithing or other members have withheld funds to the church.”

Carmean also cited, “the public interest in protecting the First Amendment right of all citizens to engage in free and open debate.”

Summonses have been issued for the defendants. Southern Maryland News has reached out to the defendants for comment. Jennings responded and provided the name of her attorney, who did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

In their introductory remarks, the plaintiffs declared of the defendants’ blog, “their motive for doing so was good, old-fashioned revenge for what they perceive was Pastor Hahn’s and Chesapeake Church’s responsibility for Ms. Laborie’s lot in life.”

Palmer is identified in court documents as Hahn’s son-in-law, “who has ill-feelings toward” the pastor and church for not being promoted.

Southern Maryland News also reached out to a member of the plaintiff’s counsel for any additional comment, but had not received a response by press time.

Twitter: @MartySoMdNews

Twitter: @MartySoMdNews