Minnesota Supreme Court Affirms Dismissal of Defamation Claim Against a Church and its Pastors

April 28, 2016

Tim O’Connor and Bill Davidson recently were successful in defending St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church and two of its pastors against defamation claims from two excommunicated church members. The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuit, agreeing with both the district court and the Court of Appeals “that the First Amendment prohibits holding an individual or organization liable for statements made in the context of a religious disciplinary proceeding when those statements are disseminated only to members of the church congregation or the organization’s membership or hierarchy.” The decision, which addressed First Amendment concerns and the Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine, is Pfeil v. St. Matthews Evangelical Lutheran Church, A14-605 (Minn. Apr. 6, 2016). The opinion is available at OPA140605-040616