Friday, December 11, 2015

Suit Against Church Claims Plaintiffs Were Defamed After They Opposed Hiring Openly Gay Pastor

The Fargo Forum in an initial and follow-up article reports on a lawsuit filed this week in Cass County, North Dakota state district court against a Kindred, North Dakota Lutheran church, church leaders and the church's parent bodies.  Plaintiffs Ray and Joan Grabanski who had been church members for 23 years seek damages for defamation and infliction of emotional distress. The Grabanskis opposed the church's hiring of an openly gay pastor. As recounted by the Forum:
The lawsuit says when the Grabanskis made their views known, they were subjected to "public ridicule, scorn, intimidation, isolation" by the church leadership, and were told the congregation was too liberal for them.
Joan Grabanski was asked to stop teaching Sunday school, and the couple was told they could leave or be forced out, with church leaders calling them "a cancer," the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges the local synod of the ELCA was aware of the conflict and failed to stop the damaging behavior.
It names the ELCA and the Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA, as well as the church's interim pastor and two other church leaders.
Defendants are seeking dismissal arguing that civil courts lack jurisdiction to adjudicate doctrinal beliefs or interpret a church's constitution. [Thanks to Christopher Dodson for the lead.]