WA Court of Appeals at Div. II: NIED Claim Survives Ecclesiastical Abstention
Under the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, you usually let church employment matters be handled by the church. Anything less usually gets you into first amendment no-no zones. Same with this, a church employee who continually questioned her church's guided religious tours as not being in comport with the church's status as a non-profit.
Needless to say, her employment went south. Most of her claims fell under the abstention, with only her negligent supervision and retention claims surviving:
Analyzing this case under Bollard, we first note that the church has not offered a religious justification for Toone's alleged tortious acts. Instead, it has denied that any misconduct occurred and argues that both the ministerial exception and ecclesiastical abstention bar consideration of Erdman's claims. Second, in its employee handbook, the Church specifically recognizes its prohibition against sexual harassment. Third, the Church's Book of Order states that the Session possesses responsibility "to provide for the administration of the program of the church, including. . . fair employment practices." CP at 831. Thus, the Church's employment policies and church doctrine prohibit sexual harassment. Fourth, Erdman's negligent supervision and retention claims and the Church's potential defenses involve a limited, secular inquiry similar to the plaintiff's claims and potential defenses under Bollard.
The First Amendment does not bar Erdman's negligent supervision and retention claims against the Church. Thus, we remand for further proceedings.