Branson televangelist Jim Bakker has asked a St. Louis appeals court to reinstate a free-speech lawsuit against Arkansas and California officials investigating a fake COVID-19 cure. Attorney Derek Ankrom of Springfield represented Bakker and his Morningside Church before the three-judge panel in a teleconference hearing.
“The court could have ordered jurisdictional discovery, and it could have held an evidentiary hearing to determine whether or not personal jurisdiction was found,” Ankrom told the panel. “It elected not to do so.”
He said that because the decision to dismiss was based solely on motions and briefs, the court must view the allegations in favor of the plaintiffs.
At issue are efforts by both Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer to prevent Bakker from promoting his silver solution product as a COVID-19 cure on his TV program, “The Jim Bakker Show.”
“In February 2020, in a nationwide television broadcast, the appellants sold silver solution claiming that it treated COVID-19,” Vincent France, an attorney with the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office, told the panel. “As a result, consumers in Arkansas purchased this, which resulted in Attorney General Rutledge’s investigation.”
In response to the investigation, Morningside Church and Bakker filed a lawsuit in the Western District of Missouri against the officials, claiming the demand for confidential church information violated their rights to establishment, free speech, free exercise and free press clauses under the First Amendment. A federal judge dismissed the case based on lack of jurisdiction, prompting the appeal to the St. Louis-based Eighth Circuit.
Bakker faces a similar challenge over his silver solution product claims from the Missouri attorney general. That case is pending in Stone County Circuit Court.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in August 2020 closed its investigation of Bakker and his Covid-19 claims.
According to a close-out letter from the FDA, “The Jim Bakker Show” has addressed the concerns raised in its March 8 warning letter regarding Bakker’s promotion of Silver Solution.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice