NEWS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 30, 2004
Pastor Sued for Following Biblical Mandates
PLANO, TX. Nov., 30 /Covenant News Wire Service/ — Liberty Legal Institute filed a brief to the Texas Supreme Court today in the Penley v. Westbrook case. Penley, who had been a member of an area church, sued Westbrook over a letter he coauthored to the congregation disassociating the congregation from 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 sinful activity,” said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Legal Institute.
Pastor Westbrook sent a letter to the members of the Crossland Community Bible Church on November 7, 2000, informing them of 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,” Sasser said. “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.”
Pastor Westbrook and the Crossland Community Bible Church follow the three-step conflict resolution requirement in Matthew 18:15-17: meeting one-on-one, meeting with others in the church to help the sinner repent, and finally, public acknowledgement of the sin.
“The danger in applying secular standards to internal church operations is clear. Churches answer to God, not man. Churches are required to uphold the moral law, not political correctness. Churches stand for the eternal, not the present. Civil courts are not the place to decide whether pastors should follow a biblical model or a secular model,” Sasser said.
The Liberty Legal Institute is a legal organization committed to the defense of religious freedoms and First Amendment rights. To speak Hiram Sasser, director of litigation, or Kelly Shackelford, chief council, contact Heather Price, phone: 972-423-8889 ext. 102.