High Court Rules Against Woman Who Sued Pastor

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

AUSTIN -- The Texas Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit today filed by a woman who was furious her pastor told the congregation about her extramarital relationship.

Peggy Penley wanted to sue the Reverend C.L. "Buddy" Westbrook for professional negligence. But the high court said it would be unconstitutional for judges to interfere in a church's internal affairs.

Justice Harriet O'Neill wrote it would be difficult for Westbrook to separate the roles of marital counselor and pastor. And impossible to "adhere to the standards of 1 without violating the requirements of the other."

Allowing judges to wade into the dispute would violate the church's First Amendment right to govern itself.

Penley and her former husband turned to Westbrook for marriage counseling in 1998.

She decided to divorce her husband in 2000 and told Westbrook that she'd had a sexual relationship with another man.

Westbrook followed the CrossLand Community Bible Church's constitution and told church elders about her affair. They distributed a letter to the congregation urging them to shun her.

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