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First Liberty Briefing

First Liberty Briefing is an exclusive podcast hosted by First Liberty Institute’s Deputy General Counsel Jeremy Dys. In about 90-seconds, once a week, Jeremy recalls the stories that have shaped America’s religious liberty, from the founding era to current legal battles and more. It’s an insider’s look at the stories, cases, people, and laws that have made America the world’s leader in protecting religious liberty.
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Feb 5, 2018

Sometimes we think that the judicial system can and will solve all of our disputes. Learn about a recent case from the Court of Appeals that says there are some things a court cannot decide at FirstLiberty.org/Briefing.


Sometimes we think that the judicial system can and will solve all of our disputes. A recent case from the Court of Appeals of Ohio says there are some things even a court cannot decide.

A Roman Catholic institution in Ohio recently dismissed a student studying for the priesthood following an investigation into allegations of moral misconduct. The student, understandably upset, sued the school for breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and other charges.

On appeal, the state court in Ohio explained that courts may only adjudicate those matters involving a subject matter courts are authorized to consider.

Courts are permitted to evaluate secular disputes, but the doctrine of ecclesiastical abstention prevents courts from settling disputes involving purely doctrinal and ecclesiastical matters. Here, the court explained, all of the claims alleged stemmed from a dispute by a religious organization over matters of church doctrine. Any resolution would, necessarily, require the court to evaluate religious doctrine—a task courts are ill-prepared to undertake.

The judicial system has broad jurisdiction over matters ranging from simple misdemeanors to complex commercial transactions. Yet, it is right and proper that courts have limits. The ecclesiastical abstention doctrine highlights those limitations, showcasing along the way the inherent deference courts have for religious bodies to govern their own, religious affairs.

To learn how First Liberty is protecting religious liberty for all Americans, visit FirstLiberty.org.

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