Sexual Harassment Investigation by Church Is Not Subject to Judicial Review
A court in Illinois ruled in favor of the First Amendment’s ecclesiastical abstention when it held that a minister, attempting to dispute a church investigation of sexual harassment claims alleged against him, could not seek relief from the court system. The ecclesiastical abstention doctrine prohibits the courts from getting involved in a religious institutions’ internal religious governance or theological disputes. There are exceptions to this rule when the court is applying neutral principles of law to a situation.
This excellent article from Wagenmaker & Oberly discusses the importance of confidentiality around internal disciplinary proceedings, having high-quality procedures in place to address allegations of sexual harassment, carrying out those procedures carefully, and being aware of potential legal liability. To read more about this case and learn what the significant take-aways are for religious organizations click here.
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