Sanctuary Surf Shop - Defamation

Case Type: Defamation 
Status: Settled by Negotiation 

Neil Aitchison is Christian pastor in Adelaide who has committed his life to helping the poor and needy and building a small Christian ministry.

Sanctuary Surf is a business he runs to raise money to support the many efforts he makes in this regard. He regularly travels to Myanmar and India to help local people build businesses and ameliorate poverty. He is also constantly engaged in new initiatives to support the needy in his local area of Adelaide.

Neil's faith is obvious to anyone who visits or passes by his shop, with excerpts from the Bible other Christian paraphernalia on display. He is also known in the community for his faith.

During 2016 a journalist visited Sanctuary Surf and found among the stocked items a T-shirt bearing the words "Love is a Choice." An article followed in a local newspaper. Titled "Sanctuary Surf Causes Waves of Offence", it alleged that the shirt was intended to be a homophobic hate message, and further attacked Neil on several grounds, including for only assisting co-religionists in his charitable work. The allegations are not true.

Following the publication of the article, Neil's shop was vandalised several times including the front windows being smashed. His phone was also inundated with prank calls and silent messages.

When Neil travelled to the paper's office to speak with someone about the article, he was asked to wait in a designated area. Shortly afterward the police arrived to remove him for alleged trespassing.

Lawyers affiliated with the Human Rights Law Alliance were able to assist Neil in negotiating an appropriate settlement for defamation and his associated losses.