Ken Paxton

AG Paxton Leads Six-State Coalition on Brief in Support of Religious Liberty

Tuesday, February 14, 2017 – Austin

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today led a coalition of six states in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to take up an important religious liberty case. The case, Portico Benefit Services v. Bacon, involves a dispute between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and pastors over pastoral compensation.

The pastors filed a class action against the church in Minnesota state court under the Uniform Prudent Investor Act (UPIA). Forty-seven states have adopted the UPIA, which requires investors to work in their clients’ best interests. The amici states urge the U.S. Supreme Court to take the case and instruct the lower court that the First Amendment prohibits state civil courts from intervening in theological decisions of churches.

In Portico, the pastors allege that Portico Benefit Services, which is a ministry of the church charged with managing pastoral retirement plans, is not investing in the best stocks available. Instead, the church invests according to its theological principles, which the plaintiffs claim is slowing the growth of their investments. The pastors demand that the Minnesota court remove the church’s ministry and replace it with a secular company. Under the First Amendment, courts may not interfere with the internal governance of churches.

“The government lacks any and all constitutional authority to interfere in the internal administrative affairs of the church; such an intrusion is in fact strictly prohibited,” Attorney General Paxton said. “The First Amendment exists in order to preserve the people’s right to shape their own faith and advance their church’s mission. This, by necessity, includes managing the church’s financial assets and deciding how, when, and by what principles those assets should be invested or spent. For the judiciary to step in is to put the weight of law behind one theological divide and force the court in the position of creating religious doctrine.”

The other states joining Texas in this brief are Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Utah and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

To view a copy of the brief, click here: