John Kaempf defends churches and religious schools throughout Oregon and Washington against civil lawsuits. This includes employment disputes and tort claims by students and church members.
John has 30 years of experience in obtaining the pretrial dismissal of claims against religious organizations based on the Free Exercise of Religion Clause of the First Amendment. The heart of his argument is that, as held by the U.S. Supreme Court, secular judges do not have the right to interfere with the internal operations of churches or religious schools. He also has extensive experience winning cases through vicarious liability and statute of limitations defenses.
In 2013, John successfully defended a religious high school in a lawsuit where the plaintiffs, a former student and his parents, sued for readmission to the school and sought money damages after the school expelled the student for misconduct. The trial court granted John’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case, holding that it was (1) barred by the First Amendment’s Free Exercise of Religion clause; (2) the school’s student handbook granted it the sole discretion to decide disciplinary issues that could not be challenged in court; and (3) the claimed damages were speculative and thus not recoverable.
In 2002, John won a case for a Christian school filed against it by a religion teacher it fired for admittedly having premarital sex in violation of its religious doctrine. The teacher sought instatement to her job and money damages. The court dismissed the case before trial because, as John argued, the Free Exercise of Religion clause of the First Amendment prohibits secular courts from second-guessing faith-based employment decisions.
These early dismissals allowed John’s clients to avoid the time, stress, expense, risk, and negative publicity associated with a trial while also validating their First Amendment right to operate their churches and religious schools without interference by courts.