Monday, May 01, 2006


Texas Supreme Court to Rule on Church Discipline

Do the courts have the authority to regulate matters within the church? That is the question before the Texas Supreme Court. I don't condone the actions of this particular church, as it is the duty of the church to preach to those struggling with the wages of sin, but I certainly am not comfortable with the idea of the government getting involved with private church business. This from our friends at the Liberty Legal Institute in the Lone Star State:

Texas Supreme Court Takes First of Its Kind Religious Liberty Case

PLANO – The Texas Supreme Court just announced that it granted the petition for review and will hear arguments in the Penley v. Westbrook case, a case filed by Liberty Legal Institute.

“This is the first case of its kind at this level, which will determine whether the courts have the authority to interfere with internal church matters, such as church discipline” said Kelly Shackelford, chief counsel for Liberty Legal Institute.

Mrs. Penley, who had been a member of an area church, sued Pastor Westbrook over a letter he coauthored to the congregation disassociating the congregation from Mrs. Penley. According to church bylaws, she acted contrary to biblical teachings regarding marriage and refused to repent of her sin.

“The Constitution prohibits people from suing churches and pastors for following biblical mandates that require the church to disassociate from unrepentant members,” Shackelford said.
Pastor Westbrook sent a letter to the members of the Crossland Community Bible Church on November 7, 2000, informing them of Mrs. Penley’s decision to terminate her marriage without any biblical basis and a biblically inappropriate relationship with another man. The letter explained the biblical authority for disciplinary action against her and the disciplinary process outlined in Scripture.

“The U.S. Constitution protects the right of a church to choose its members and govern itself in any manner it chooses according to doctrine and faith, without government interference,” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Legal Institute. “Pastors also have a constitutional right to inform other church members of the influence of sin on church members and the steps being taken to address such sin."

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