A New Mexico family is suing its local Catholic church over a funeral Mass at which the priest allegedly said their relative was going straight to hell.
The priest allegedly said Martinez was "living in sin"
The family of Ben Martinez, 80, allege that Reverend Scott Mansfield said he was "living in sin," "lukewarm in his faith" and that "the Lord vomited people like Ben out of his mouth to hell".
Around 200 people attended the funeral of Mr Martinez - a local town councillor - at St Patrick's Parish in Chama, north of Santa Fe, last month.
Nine members of the Martinez family are seeking punitive and compensatory damages for severe emotional and physical
They say Mr Martinez had been a practising Catholic all his life, but was too ill to
attend church in his last year.
"These people are profoundly hurt," said lawyer Kathleen
Kentish-Lucero, representing the Martinez family.
"If you are Catholic and a representative of your church says your father is going to hell, that's perhaps the most devastating thing
someone can say to you."
One of the plaintiffs allegedly said people in the town "are staring at
her, thinking her father is in hell."
The complaint also said that as Father Mansfield walked to the grave, he laced his comments about Mr Martinez with profanities.
Lawyers did not say how much the family was seeking
But church officials have denied the family's claims.
"We deny the allegations and Father Mansfield denies the
plaintiff's allegations," said Celine Baca Radigan, director of
communications for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.
She said that Father Mansfield has been moved to another parish on a routine transfer.
Lawyers for the Martinez family said they had filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of Santa Fe and one of its priests.