Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ecclesiastical Abstention Requires Dismissal of Suit Over Student's Forced Withdrawal From High School

In In re the Episcopal School of Dallas, Inc., (TX App, Oct. 11, 2017), a Texas state appellate court held that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine applies to a faith-based school, even though the school was not owned or operated by a church, saying in part:
[T]he Does cite no authority for the premise that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine requires a showing that an institution’s “primary purpose” is religion. More importantly, asking this Court to examine and compare the contours of different religions or measure the internal application of Episcopal precepts to the school’s policies or its conduct here seeks to have us engage in the exact analysis the First Amendment precludes. 
It ordered the trial court to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction a suit by a high school student who was forced to withdraw from school because of marijuana use during his lunch hour and his conduct surrounding investigation of the incident.  the court concluded:
The Does’ claims all concern a faith-based organization’s internal affairs, governance, administration, membership, or disciplinary procedures and are protected religious decisions. Thus, the Does’ suit has no secular aspect for the courts to consider.