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TORTS / JURISDICTION - EX PARTE BOLE

Ex parte Bole, [Ms. 1110868, Aug. 31, 2012], __ So. 3d __(Ala. 2012). Involves claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress by a former pastor and pastor emeritus of a Methodist church against a lay member of the church who, in e-mails and other communications to other members of the church, insinuated that the pastor had engaged in financial improprieties with money donated through charitable contributions to the church. The church member filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the circuit court was without subject matter jurisdiction because any attempt to adjudicate the claim would require an impermissible inquiry into the church's investigation of complaints surrounding the allegations of financial improprieties, and such ecclesiastical affairs were protected from scrutiny by the First and Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Reviewing similar cases from other states, the Supreme Court of Alabama agreed with the church member, holding that the circuit court was without jurisdiction to adjudicate the defamation, invasion of privacy, or intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, as "[A]ny attempt to adjudicate [such] claims would require an impermissible inquiry into the [church's] investigation of the complaints...into the results of the investigation conducted by the [church], into the factual findings that formed the basis for the resolution, and into the [church's] decision[s]." Additionally, allowing such claims "to proceed could have a chilling effect on the communication among members of a congregation regarding church leadership."

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