Thursday, July 20, 2017

Court Dismisses Husband's Suit Over Pastor's Affair With Wife

In Laidlaw v. Converge Midatlantic, 2017 Phila. Ct. Com. Pl. LEXIS 203 (PA Com. Pl., July 19, 2017), a Pennsylvania trial court dismissed a suit brought by a husband who is seeking damages for a sexual affair between his wife and the pastor of the couple's church.  In prior years the pastor had furnished marriage counseling to the couple.  While the suit was framed as claims for negligence, infliction of emotional distress, fraud and defamation, the court held that these are in reality "heart balm" torts which were eliminated by case law and statute in Pennsylvania decades ago.  The court added:
Even if Appellant's claims were not barred as obsolete heart balm torts, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution requires this Court to dismiss them because they would constitute impermissible state intrusion upon religion. Appellant's claims against his church and pastor for the affair are wholly based in religious doctrine, perceived social pressures from his religious community, and his own faith-his personal faith in his pastor and in his church. Therefore, the Court would be forced to interpret and evaluate church canons, discipline, and faith to determine the merit of his claims.