Thursday, June 16, 2016

Court Says Suit Over Church Member's Trespassing Ban Should Be Dismissed

In Towns v. Cornerstone Baptist Church, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77575 (ED NY, June 13, 2016), a New York federal magistrate judge recommended dismissing with prejudice the third amended complaint in a lawsuit by a long-time member of Cornerstone Baptist Church against the church, its pastor, the New York Police Department and others.  Plaintiff claimed that his rights were violated when, because of a dispute about church governance and programming, he was banned by the church from entering its property.  In a letter the church threatened him with arrest for trespassing if he attempted to enter church property. Among other things, the judge concluded that this was a non-justiciable religious controversy and that there was no joint action between the church and police officials, saying in part:
Although plaintiff has the right to worship how he chooses, Cornerstone's decision to ban him from its property is not a violation of his constitutional rights.
The court also rejected plaintiff's conspiracy and retaliation claims.