Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Challenge To Church Pension Plan Not Barred By First Amendment

In Bacon v. Board of Pensions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, (MN App., July 25, 2016), a Minnesota state court of appeals held that neither the First Amendment nor the Freedom of Conscience Clause of the Minnesota Constitution prevents a civil court from adjudicating a challenge to the manner in which the Lutheran Church retirement plans were managed. Participants in the pension plan sued claiming breach of fiduciary duty, breach of trust, and fraud and concealment in the administration and management of the Plans. The court said in part:
Because the plan documents themselves contain the fiduciary duties, a Minnesota court can adjudicate many of the claims without reaching the religious documents.... There does not appear to be a specific ruling of a governing ecclesiastical body at issue in this case....