Sunday, September 27, 2015

Church Official's Defamation Suit Dismissed On Ecclesiastical Abstention Grounds

In Dermody v. Presbyterian Church (USA), (KY Cir. Ct., Sept. 21, 2015), a Kentucky trial court dismissed on ecclesiastical abstention grounds a defamation suit by PCUSA's former Deputy Executive Director of Mission against PCUSA.  Plaintiff Roger Dermody based his claim on PCUSA's informing people outside the governing body of the church that Dermody had violated PCUSA's ethics policies, apparently by allowing pastors under his supervision to set up a new non-profit organization to support the creation of new worship communities. The court concluded that if it were to adjudicate the defamation claim and the defense of truthfulness, it would have to determine whether Dermody had in fact committed ethics violations, which would require it to interpret church doctrine and policies. [Thanks to Tom Rutledge for the lead.]