Priest sues paper over apparent prank letter to editor

Father Michael McMahon

In April of 2011, the Paxton Record — a weekly published by the Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette — ran a letter to the editor in support of gay rights and identified the author as Michael McMahon, a Catholic priest and boys’ school headmaster. The letter also said McMahon is president of the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Association of Vermilion County. (“I’m guessing the Paxton Record was an unwitting participant in a stunt,” a News-Gazette commenter notes.)

The Record apologized and ran a correction, but the priest still wants at least $50,000 from the paper. His suit says:

The representation [in the letter] that Father McMahon, who is charged with the safety and spiritual growth of young Catholic men, was the leader of a sexually active, gay advocacy group headquartered at a Catholic boarding school imputes to him an inability to perform and want of integrity in the discharge of his duties as a Catholic priest and Headmaster.

Publisher John Foreman calls the suit “spurious,” and says “we don’t believe that Father McMahon was defamed by a letter suggesting he was sympathetic to the societal problems faced by gay people. That’s not defamatory.”

* Catholic school’s headmaster sues paper for libel