Local News in Brief : Suit Against Church Taken to High Court

A Tujunga couple who contended in a lawsuit that a Sun Valley church is guilty of "clergy malpractice" in the 1979 suicide of their son have appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, their attorney said Wednesday.

Allen P. Wilkinson, attorney for Walter and Maria Nally, said a petition was filed Tuesday asking the Supreme Court to review the suit, whose claims were rejected by the California Supreme Court in November.

The family maintains that Grace Community Church pastors, who were providing 24-year-old Kenneth Nally with spiritual counseling for his depression, should be held liable for his suicide. But the state Supreme Court ruled Nov. 27 that church pastors should be "free from state-imposed counseling standards."

Wilkinson said that the constitutional right of religious freedom should not protect a church and its pastors from responsibility in counseling members.

David A. Cooksey, an attorney for the church, said he had not seen the petition filed with the high court, but maintained that the case involves state and not federal issues. "With the U.S. Supreme Court we have now, I don't think it will touch this case," Cooksey said.

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