The Supreme Court has refused to toss out a defamation award to a fired pastor, despite claims by the church that dismissed him that its actions are protected by the Constitution's religious freedom guarantees.
The court on Monday rejected an appeal from the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Vernonia, Ore., asking the justices to throw out a $355,000 jury award.
Tim Tubra was fired as an interim pastor in 2004 after church officials accused him of misappropriating church money. Tubra sued the church for defamation after he learned that officials had made the accusation public in a letter read aloud to the congregation.
The church argued it has a right to speak to members about church matters without any interference from the courts.
An Oregon appeals court disagreed.