Orthodox Priest Victorious in Libel Lawsuit Against Gay Activist Publisher

June 29, 2022
Tom Ciesielka

An Orthodox Christian priest known for his out-spoken defense of the Orthodox Church’s view on marriage and abortion, has been vindicated in federal court and the gay activist publisher who attacked him has been held accountable. Thomas More Society attorneys brought the lawsuit on behalf of Father Josiah Trenham, along with his wife, Orthodox Christian Ministries, and Saint Andrew Orthodox Christian Church. Self-proclaimed gay rights activist Peter “Giacomo” Sanfilippo has been found liable in Father Josiah Trenham, et al. v. Peter J. Sanfilippo, et al., for defaming Father Trenham and his wife Catherine, along with his church and ministry, in the online publication Orthodoxy in Dialogue. The Court awarded $300,000 in damages against Sanfilippo, the outlet’s editor, for publishing false, malicious, and defamatory statements and accusations concerning the priest and his ministry, and for harassing the Trenhams.

The order, issued by Judge John Holcomb of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, found that Sanfilippo has admitted guilt for “defamation, civil harassment, trade libel, false light, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, negligent interference with prospective economic advantage, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy.”

Charles LiMandri, Thomas More Society Special Counsel and partner at LiMandri & Jonna, LLP, stated, “We are, of course, pleased with the outcome of this case. Sanfilippo repeatedly and viciously attacked Father Trenham and his wife Catherine, their church and ministry, via his online website. He published a multitude of reprehensible defamatory articles over a period of several years, beginning in 2018, with the intent of destroying the personal reputations of Father Trenham and those involved in ministry with him.”

“Sanfilippo, apparently upset that this pastor upheld the teachings of his church, took on the role of an internet troll masquerading as media,” recounted LiMandri. “It is right that the court has held him accountable for this outrageous behavior and ordered him to stop.”

The court judgement enjoins and restrains Sanfilippo from “engaging in defamation, civil harassment, extortion, invasion of privacy, and other wrongful conduct,” and orders him to “remove the defamatory and privacy-invading posts” from his personal website and from OrthodoxyInDialogue.com. Sanfilippo is also banned from “posting or reposting the material including writing, videos, messages, or communications in any form either online or in any other forum where it can be viewed or accessed by the public, as well as allowing such material that was previously published to remain in place.” The offender is also forbidden from encouraging others to publish such material or circulating such material to third parties, even if not done publicly. The order applies both to content authored by Sanfilippo and to material published by him, regardless of authorship.”

Read the Judgement issued on May 23, 2022, by United States District Judge John W. Holcomb of the United States District Court for the Central District of California, in Father Josiah Trenham, et al. v. Peter J. Sanfilippo, et al. here.