Appeal victory upholding dismissal of defamation claims against a church and its pastors

January 29, 2015

Tim O’Connor and Bill Davidson successfully defended St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church and its pastors against a claim from two excommunicated church members.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuit, agreeing with the district court that “judicial inquiry into the truth of the statements made during a church disciplinary proceeding would create an excessive entanglement with the church that would violate the First Amendment[.]”  The decision, which applied the Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine, is Pfeil v. St. Matthews Evangelical Lutheran Church, A14-605 (Minn. App. Jan. 12, 2015).  The opinion is available at opa140605-011215.