Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Disability Discrimination Suit Dismissed Under Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine

In Beth Yeshua Hamashiach v. Adan, (TX App., March 3, 2015), a Texas state appeals court, invoking the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, dismissed for lack of jurisdiction a lawsuit seeking damages and injunctive relief against a Messianic synagogue for discrimination on the basis of disability.  Plaintiff, Malaika Adan, was a synagogue member who is confined to a wheelchair.  She complained that a restroom in the Baptist Church building where the synagogue rented space was not ADA compliant. She sent a letter to the pastor of the Baptist Church, quoting scripture at length and threatening to sue.  The rabbi of the Messianic Congregation, along with some of its leaders, unhappy about plaintiff's threat to sue, wrote plaintiff, citing Biblical verses, and imposed a 6 week ban from the premises on her.  She sued alleging that she was denied admittance to the church building because of her disability. The court said:
The pleadings and relevant jurisdictional evidence demonstrate that this was a religious dispute between a congregant and one of its members. Although Adan initially complained to Pastor Jeter about the restroom, she unilaterally injected religious issues into a secular controversy.