Elliott Greenleaf Wins Summary Judgment Dismissing Defamation, Contract and Tort Claims Against Episcopal Parish, Bishop and Church Members

Firm News

January 10, 2014

Elliott Greenleaf won a summary judgment dismissal of all claims against its clients, an Episcopal Parish located in Philadelphia, members of its congregation and the Diocesan Bishop. Plaintiff, the former priest in charge of the parish, asserted claims for defamation, breach of contract, tortious interference with contracts and civil conspiracy following the Bishop’s revocation of his license to minister.

After unsuccessfully challenging the revocation of his license in canonical proceedings, the Plaintiff filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas seeking a different result, alleging that the Defendants conspired against him to destroy his career and defame his character because of personal animosities. Elliott Greenleaf proved that the Plaintiff was actually asking the court to interfere with the determination by a religious organization about who should preach in the pulpits of its church. In winning, Elliott Greenleaf argued that the relief sought by Plaintiff would violate the establishment clause in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protecting religious freedom and barring governmental interference with its free exercise. Elliott Greenleaf also successfully argued that the Plaintiff’s claims lacked merit and must be dismissed.

Elliott Greenleaf’s Stewart J. Greenleaf, Jr. and Michelle E. McStravick represented the Defendants in this summary judgment victory.