Attorney General Paxton filed a cert-stage amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court to protect the freedom of religious organizations and their ability to choose their own leadership.  

The Virginia-led amicus brief was filed after the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a troubling ruling that could allow courts to interject themselves into organizational decisions that rightfully belong to religious institutions.  

Here, the Second Circuit erroneously ruled that a defamation lawsuit brought against church leaders could proceed, despite the dangerous precedent that would set in undermining First Amendment protections. The individual who brought the defamation suit did so to challenge internal communications of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia that prevented him from becoming the Bishop of Miami. 

It is vital in such religious disputes that the judicial system refrain from exercising influence over institutions and their leadership decisions. The courts must respect religious organizations’ constitutionally protected ability to operate in accordance with their beliefs. The Second Circuit’s contrary ruling violates long-standing legal protections for religious organizations and threatens the religious liberty of all Americans.  

The multistate brief states: “Amici States are home to thousands of religious organizations, with millions of adherents. Amici States have a compelling interest in protecting the constitutional rights of these organizations, including churches, synagogues, and mosques, to be free to communicate about their current and former leaders without fear that secular courts will punish them or otherwise interfere with their decision-making. The ruling below exposes religious organizations to years-long litigation and intrusive discovery into their leadership decisions with no appellate review until final judgments are entered.” 

To read the full brief, click here.