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Defamation Suit Dismissed Under Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In In re Alief Vietnamese Alliance Church and Phan Phung Hung, (TX App., April 30, 2019), a Texas state appellate court held that a defamation claim by a church’s former interim pastor, Paul Nguyen, against the Church and its senior pastor Phan Phung Hung should be dismissed under the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine.  At issue were statements by Hung that Nguyen had committed adultery with a female church member. In a 2-1 decision, the majority said in part:

We conclude that Hung’s allegedly defamatory statements are … “inextricably intertwined” with matters relating to an internal struggle between a current and former leader of the Church over Church governance, the standard of morals required of leaders of the Church, and the reason for Nguyen’s leaving or being expelled from the Church….

Even if there is a dispute over Hung’s motivation in making the statements—either as part of a disciplinary procedure due to the alleged adultery or merely out of vindictiveness towards Nguyen, who had criticized Hung’s pastoring decisions—these statements were made in the context of expelling a member and former leader of the Church, or, alternatively, the Church member’s voluntarily quitting his leadership positions and quitting the Church—and then refusing to meet with Church leadership to resolve the dispute—either version of which is inherently an ecclesiastical concern as a matter of law.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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