By Leslie Scanlon, The Presbyterian Outlook.
A Kentucky state court judge considered arguments from lawyers March 17 in the defamation lawsuit that former Presbyterian Church (USA) employee Eric Hoey brought against the denomination in 2015.
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Brian Edwards held a hearing in which lawyers disagreed about what should happen next in the case. Hoey, the PC(USA)’s former director of Evangelism and Church Growth, filed the lawsuit in June 2015 after he and three other men lost their jobs in connection with an ethics investigation involving the denomination’s 1001 New Worshipping Communities program.
The four were involved in an investigation initiated after it was discovered that in December 2013, an unauthorized corporation called the Presbyterian Centers for New Church Development Inc. was set up in California, and that later $100,000 of PCUSA grant money was sent to that corporation. All of the money was later returned, and Linda Valentine, who then served as executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, has said none of those involved acted for personal gain.
John Sheller, representing the PCUSA, contended in the March 17 hearing that Edwards should rule on the question of whether the case should be dismissed on the grounds that legal precedent holds that courts should not exercise jurisdiction over religious organizations on internal matters involving theological controversy, church discipline or ecclesiastical government.