Magazine article The Christian Century

U.S. Judge Rules against Lutheran Retirees' Claims

Magazine article The Christian Century

U.S. Judge Rules against Lutheran Retirees' Claims

Article excerpt

In a blow to retirees of a major Lutheran publishing house, a federal judge has ruled that the now-dissolved pension plan of Augsburg Fortress was exempt from federal regulations that would have required it to meet minimum funding levels.

But the case remains open as pensioners--who say they're owed as much as $40 million--received a green light to keep pressing breach-of-contract claims under state law.

The January 27 ruling by Minnesota's U.S. District Judge Michael Davis marked a partial victory for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its publishing arm, Augsburg Fortress.

Davis ruled that Augsburg Fortress's pension was a "church plan," making it exempt from regulations that cover other pension programs under the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act, or ERISA.

"We're very pleased with the result," said Beth Lewis, president and CEO of Augsburg Fortress. "It means that we continue to publish fine resources for the church and focus on our business, which is also a ministry."

The ELCA also welcomed the ruling, which dismissed seven of nine claims against the denomination.

"The ruling is . …

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