Judge dismisses defamation lawsuit filed by Minnetonka food truck owner over cult accusations

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A Hennepin County judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed last summer by the owner of a popular Minnetonka food truck who claimed she lost business from accusations that she operated a cult.

Soulaire Allerai owns the Bad Rooster food truck and is the spiritual director at Living Faith Spiritual Community, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 in Minnetonka. She also runs a wellness center and hosts a spirituality podcast with 100,000 Facebook followers.

The lawsuit, first reported by the Star Tribune, stemmed from a series of Facebook posts made by sisters Angela Marie Hummelgard of Cottage Grove and Kelly Ring Abedi, of Reisterstown, Md. They said Allerai ran a cult that they were once members of in the early 2000s and their mother joined as a devout follower of Allerai. They said they lost contact with their mom, who changed her name and worked for the food truck.

Abedi posted the cult claims, which were followed by others echoing the accusations in the business’ reviews and online comments. Affidavits list at least seven other individuals who left Allerai’s spiritual groups or say a loved one is still active in the groups and they have strained relationships because of this.

District Judge Joseph Klein tossed out the suit Thursday, ruling that whether or not a religious organization is a cult is a matter of personal opinion, dependent upon values and beliefs, and fails to meet the legal standards for defamation.

The question he raised is whether “calling a religious organization a cult makes an otherwise factual statement defamatory,” and he did not find that to be the case.

He said “cult” can be used to describe a large number of religious and faith-based organizations that differ from “more standard fare in myriad ways” and the definition may vary based on perception as well.

“The simple attribution of the moniker does not precisely or specifically allege anything … This court cannot determine the truth or falsity of ecclesiastical matter, which fall outside the proper bounds of what a court may decide.”

Abedi said in a post that Allerai’s spiritual group “functions like a cult” and “she ‘channels’ the spirit of God. She charges her followers lots of money to speak to ‘God’ and she has actively torn families apart.”

Content retrieved from: https://www.startribune.com/judge-dismisses-defamation-lawsuit-filed-by-minnetonka-food-truck-over-cult-accusations/600291486/.

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