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Texas court dismisses confidentiality case against pastor.



The Texas Supreme Court has refused to entertain a parishioner's lawsuit against her pastor for revealing her extramarital ex·tra·mar·i·tal  
adj.
Being in violation of marriage vows; adulterous: an extramarital affair.


extramarital
Adjective
 affair.

In late June, the state's top court ruled in Westbrook v. Penley that it did not have jurisdiction to decide whether Pastor C.L. "Buddy" Westbrook of CrossLand Community Bible Church Community Bible Church is a church in North Central San Antonio. It is an inter-donminational-bible church with almost 10,000 people attending at three weekend services (plus a Sunday Evening service for college-age students).

CBC's Senior Pastor is Robert Emmitt.
 in Fort Worth should be found liable for revealing the extramarital sexual relationship, which was told to Westbrook in a private meeting. Peggy Lee Penley, a former congregant con·gre·gant  
n.
One who congregates, especially a member of a group of people gathered for religious worship.

Noun 1. congregant - a member of a congregation (especially that of a church or synagogue)
 of CrossLand, sued Westbrook claiming that he had learned of her situation in a secular counseling session and that he broke his duty of confidentiality In common law jurisdictions, the duty of confidentiality obliges a solicitor to respect the confidentiality of his or her client's affairs. Information that a solicitor obtains about his or her clients' affairs may be confidential, and must not be used for the benefit of persons .

After Westbrook, who is also a licensed professional counselor Licensed Professional Counselor ("LPC") is a licensure for mental health professionals. The exact title varies by state. Licensed Professional Counselors are one of the six types of licensed mental health professionals who provide psychotherapy in the United States. , learned of Penley's relationship, he published a letter to the church membership in fall 2000 explaining that Penley intended to divorce her husband. He said there was no biblical basis and that she had engaged in a "biblically inappropriate" relationship with another man. Noting that she refused to repent, Westbrook also told the congregation that it should "break fellowship" with Penley in an effort to force her repentance.

Penley sued the pastor claiming he had committed numerous civil offenses, such as breach of fiduciary duty and intentional infliction of emotional distress The examples and perspective in this article or section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject.
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. Westbrook urged the Texas courts to dismiss Penley's lawsuit, arguing that the state did not have jurisdiction over an "ecclesiastical dispute."

Citing federal and state court precedent, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously agreed with Westbrook. The autonomy of houses of worship, wrote Justice Harriet O'Neill, has "long been afforded broad constitutional protection."

O'Neill concluded that a "church's decision to discipline members for conduct considered outside the church's moral code is an inherently religious function with which civil courts should not generally interfere."

The justice continued, "Subjecting CrossLand's pastor to tort liability for engaging in the disciplinary process that the church requires would clearly have a 'chilling effect' on churches' ability to discipline members, and deprive churches of their right to construe construe v. to determine the meaning of the words of a written document, statute or legal decision, based upon rules of legal interpretation as well as normal meanings.  and administer church law."
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Title Annotation:AROUND THE STATES
Publication:Church & State
Date:Sep 1, 2007
Words:328
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