Judge Sides with Louisiana Conference in Lawsuit Regarding Disaffiliation Process

March 23, 2023

BATON ROUGE - A state district court judge in Baton Rouge today ruled that the United Methodist Church in the Louisiana Conference is protected by the U.S. Constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state in a lawsuit brought by a group of retired United Methodist Church pastors.

The plaintiffs sued the Louisiana Conference and its Board of Trustees to force a change in the way the church is handling the process by which local churches can disaffiliate from, or leave, the United Methodist Church. The retired pastors also asked the courts to stop pending votes from local churches wanting to disaffiliate.

However, Judge Kelly Balfour honored the Louisiana Conference’s exceptions and affirmed the Conference’s position that disagreements related to these matters should be settled by a church court and not a civil court. The plaintiffs were given 30 days to amend or appeal. 

“Besides the First Amendment arguments, which clearly applied in this case, the Louisiana Conference strongly believes that our disaffiliation process is faithful to the Book of Discipline and fair to all congregations entering discernment,” said Bishop Delores J. Williamston. “We love and respect those who brought this action to the courts and will continue to ensure this process is carried out fairly and faithfully.”

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