[img_assist|nid=8043|title=Lawsuit Press Conference|desc=Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard comments at a April 4 news conference at the school on a judge’s favorable ruling for LC in a lawsuit over the school’s faith-based teachings. Photo by Al Quartemont.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=427]By Kelly Boggs, Baptist Message Editor
PINEVILLE — After almost seven years, the Ninth Judicial District Court has ruled in favor of Louisiana College and defended the school’s right to determine the content of its faith curriculum.
The decision concerned a law suit filed by former professors who “sued to gain control of how religion would be taught,” Louisiana College President Joe Aguillard said April 3 during a news conference on campus.
The lawsuit, filed in 2005, was heard by Judge Mary Lauve Doggett of the Ninth Judicial District Court ruled March 27. The professors who sued the college alleging loss of academic freedom and infliction of emotional distress were Carlton L. Winbery, Fredrick L. Downing, James R. Heath and Connie R. Douglas.
New Orleans attorney Ted LeClerq, who represented LC, said the court made a landmark decision.
“The case was dismissed because for the court to make a decision, it would require the judge to be a theological expert and to make choices about which faith is correct,” he said. “In the United States, our courts always avoid being the one who decides which faith is correct. It’s part of our history of religious freedom and is protected by the Constitution, particularly the First Amendment.”
In her ruling, Judge Doggett wrote: “Under the establishment Clause, the consideration is whether the issues which the Court will have to resolve will necessarily turn upon competing interpretations of religion, thus resulting in the Court becoming entangled in an ecclesiastical dispute.”
The Judge continued, “The ‘Entanglement Doctrine’ provides that a court must decline jurisdiction over a lawsuit when the dispute is so intertwined with matters of religion that a proper resolution cannot be made without interpreting or choosing between competing religious principles or doctrines.”
“…the court finds that this suit is so intertwined with matters of religion that a proper resolution could not be made herein without interpreting or choosing between competing religious principles or doctrine,” Judge Doggett observed.
In the final paragraph of her ruling, Doggett concluded, “Considering all the evidence, including deposition testimony of the plaintiffs, it is clear that this litigation arises out of a dispute over Baptist Theology. The plaintiffs candidly testified that their errant view of the Bible was in conflict with the inerrant beliefs of the LC administration and, at least in part, with the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
Judge Doggett continued, “Thus, any claim for breach of the agreement, violations of the Handbook and/or By-laws, and/or emotional infliction of emotional distress that arises out of the conflict is beyond the scope of this court’s jurisdiction.”
Praising the judge’s ruling, Aguillard told faculty and students that no institution can tell a religious body what it can or cannot teach.
“This stems from a plethora of teaching across the curriculum that was antithetical to the institution’s mission,” the president said.
The defendants included the college, Leon Hyatt, Jr., Joe Aguillard, Kent Aguillard, Alan Shoemaker, Amy Roussell and Louisiana Inerrancy Fellowship.
Aguillard said LC will continue to fight if the decision is appealed.
“We are now and will continue to be a Christian liberal arts college,” he said. “We are unafraid of debate and inquiry, for we are unafraid of the truth, for all truth is God’s truth.”