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Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine Bars Court from Intervention in Dispute over Church Bylaw Compliance
Texas
State:
Key point 2-01.4. The selection of a minister is an ecclesiastical decision that the civil courts ordinarily will not review—even when it is alleged that a church failed to follow its own internal procedures in the selection of a minister, or the selection process was discriminatory.
Key point 6-10.1. According to the majority view, the civil courts will not resolve disputes challenging a church's discipline of a member since the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom prevents them from deciding who are members in good standing of a church.
Key point 9-07. The First Amendment allows civil courts to resolve internal church disputes so long as they can do so without interpreting doctrine or polity.

A Texas court ruled that the "ecclesiastical abstention" doctrine prevented it from resolving an internal church dispute regarding a church's compliance with its bylaws in selecting a new pastor and dismissing several dissident members. In January 2012, a pastor died and a dispute arose over the church's efforts to fill the pastoral vacancy. With respect to a vacancy, the church's bylaws provided:

In the event of a vacancy, a pulpit committee composed of Deacons and members (five people on the committee) shall be appointed by the church to seek out a suitable Pastor and their recommendations will constitute a nomination though any member has the privilege of naming other nominations according to the policy established by the church. The committee shall bring to the consideration of the church one minister at a time. Elections shall be by secret ballot; an affirmative vote of three-fourth of those present being necessary for a choice. The Chairman of Deacons and Trustees shall have the right to meet with the Pulpit Committee at any time.

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