‘Plaintiff does not plead any facts establishing a causal connection between Defendant Leonatti’s alleged conduct and the decision…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) A Lutheran pastor who spoke out against an Islamic consulting firm’s attempts to purchase state property has won an ongoing court battle after the group sued him for exercising his right to free speech.
Bruce Leonatti, president of the Pittsburgh ACT for America, vocally opposed HIRA Educational Services of North America’s attempt to purchase a Youth Development Center.
Leonatti claimed the group was lying about its intentions for the property and that they would use the YDC “to become an immigration refugee contractor that can bring in thousands of refugees if they have a facility to house them.”
Pennsylvania state legislators also shared concerns with HIRA’s bid for the property, including state Rep. Aaron Bernstine.
Bernstine questioned the sale because of faulty tax payments and potential collusion in the bidding process.
HIRA’s Asif Kunwar said the group is “an Islamic New Jersey consulting firm catering to Islamic schools and organizations,” but because of Kunwar’s questionable personal finances, the sale was ultimately dropped.
Kunwar sued Leonatti and Bernstine, along with several others, though, claiming the sale of the YDC should not have been dropped, and that Leonatti interfered with the sales contract.
On Monday, the court dismissed Kunwar’s lawsuit against Leonatti and said his opposition to HIRA had nothing to do with the dropped sale of property.
“Not only do the facts pleaded by Plaintiff show that Defendant Leonatti’s conduct had no impact on DGS’s [the PA agency] decision to move forward with forming the land sale contract with Plaintiff, but Plaintiff does not plead any facts establishing a causal connection between Defendant Leonatti’s alleged conduct and the decision by the Defendant Township Supervisors to institute legal proceedings,” the judge ruled.
Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, which represented Leonatti, said the judge was right to rule against Kunwar, since Leonatti was simply exercising his First Amendment rights.
“We applaud the steadfast courage and fortitude of 74-year-old Pastor Leonatti who stood his ground against the intimidating tactics of HIRA and its baseless lawsuit,” Thompson said in a statement.