Thursday, August 16, 2018

Defamation Suit Dismissed Under Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine

In Orr v. Fourth Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Church, (IL App., Aug. 14, 2018), an Illinois state appellate court dismissed on ecclesiastical abstention grounds a defamation lawsuit brought by Rev. Charles Orr, the chairperson of a committee responsible for screening candidates for admission to the ministry within the AME Church. A woman whose application for the ministry was deferred charged Orr with sexual harassment. The charge was shared with others in the church hierarchy.  The court said in part:
Plaintiff failed to present evidence that defendants published Tamara’s statements to anyone outside of the internal disciplinary procedures of the AME Church. The statements made pursuant to the internal disciplinary procedures come within the ecclesiastic abstention doctrine and, accordingly, are protected by the first amendment.
WGLT News reports on the decision.