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The American Family Association has filed suit against the general counsel for the National Endowment for the Arts, claiming she made slanderous comments about the group in a speech at the University in October. In a suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court, the AFA and its founder, the Rev. Donald Wildmon, charged that Julianne Davis' speech before an audience of 40 to 50 at the Law School October 24 was filled with "vicious and malicious falsehood." In the suit, the AFA, which is based in Tupelo, Mississippi, describes itself as an organization that works to promote "decency" and Judeo-Christian family values based. In a transcript of the speech provided by the AFA in the suit, Davis allegedly said she saw a 24-point political agenda of the AFA, an organization which opposes the NEA's funding of controversial art. But the suit claims Davis told the audience the AFA's agenda "includes the elimination of democracy, elimination of public schools, (and) advocates that astrologers, adulterers, blasphemers, homosexuals and incorrigible children be executed, preferably by stoning." Calls to Davis' Washington, D.C., office were redirected to the NEA's public relations department. NEA spokesman John Dare said yesterday the organization will not make any comment until it has reviewed the suit. Benjamin Bull, a lawyer at the American Family Association Law Center in Tupelo, said yesterday that his group received a tape of the speech from a member of the audience who "made me swear not to reveal who they are." He would not say whether the person was a student. Bull said the person was "somebody who had heard she (Davis) was making outrageous statements about opposers of NEA funding." "This is outrageous slander," said Bull, who said the AFA does not have any political agenda. Davis also was outspoken against former presidential candidate Pat Robertson and his Christian Broadcast Network, Bull said. The suit charges only Davis and not the NEA, Bull said, because the group feels the speech was made outside of her duties with the NEA. The group and Wildmon charged Davis with slander and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress. They demanded a jury trial, and are seeking more than $100,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. They also want a permanent injunction which would prevent Davis from making similar comments in public and an order requiring Davis to publish a retraction in the Law School newspaper and to issue a retractory note to the organizations that sponsored the event. Representatives of those groups could not be reached for comment or for verification of Davis' remarks.

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