Supreme Court Likely To Define 1st Amendment Rights Of Churches


Supreme Court likely to define 1st Amendment rights of churchesThe Supreme Court is expected to soon deliver its opinion on a 1st Amendment issue involving an Oregon-based pastor who sued his former employer, a church, for defamation of character.

According to, pastor Tim Tubra was fired by the Vernonia Foursquare Church in 2004 after clergy officials accused him of "misappropriation of church funds." Tubra, who was never charged with a theft-related crime, filed a lawsuit against the church after he discovered that his former employer made its accusation public in a letter that was read aloud to the congregation.

A jury in Multnomah County sided with Tubra and awarded him $355,000 in damages, but the trial judge threw out the verdict because he said the court did not have jurisdiction over the church's freedom of religion rights granted by the 1st Amendment.

However, an Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the jury's original decision, ruling that the church's defaming statements were not religious in nature, according to the news provider. Appellate judge Rex Armstrong said that accusing a pastor of theft is no more or less a religious matter than "accusing a pastor of child molestation."

Brooksby Kaempf, the civil litigation firm representing the church, stated that the upcoming Supreme Court's decision could make a lasting mark on the 1st Amendment and the free exercise of religion.

"This case presents the Court with the opportunity to clarify this important Constitutional issue and to uphold the right of churches to manage their internal affairs without courts getting involved," said John Kaempf. 

Personal Liberty

Special To Personal Liberty

You Sound Off! is written by our readers and appears the last Wednesday of each month. If you would like to submit an article or letter to the editor for consideration for You Sound Off!, send it to by the Friday before the last Wednesday of the month. To be considered, a submission should be 750 words or less and must include the writer's name, address and a telephone number. Only the writer's name will be published. Anonymous submissions will not be considered.

Join the Discussion

Comment Policy: We encourage an open discussion with a wide range of viewpoints, even extreme ones, but we will not tolerate racism, profanity or slanderous comments toward the author(s) or comment participants. Make your case passionately, but civilly. Please don't stoop to name calling. We use filters for spam protection. If your comment does not appear, it is likely because it violates the above policy or contains links or language typical of spam. We reserve the right to remove comments at our discretion.