Tuesday, September 03, 2019

Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine Prevents Decision On Church Demolition

In Friends to Restore St. Mary's, LLC v. Church of St. Mary, Melrose, (MN App., Sept. 3, 2019), a Minnesota state appellate court held that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine precludes a civil court from adjudicating a dispute over whether an arson-damaged church building is a “historical resource” protected under Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.  Plaintiffs sought an injunction to prevent demolition of the church building after the Bishop and the Diocesan Building Council recommended demolition and building of a new structure. The court concluded:
On the record before us, the decision to remove features of religious significance and demolish the church building is an internal decision that affects the faith and mission of the church. Appellant’s MERA claim cannot be adjudicated without violating the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine.