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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Selection and Qualifications

Volume 2 . Chapter 6 . § 6-09.1
Key point 6-09.1. The procedure for selecting members generally is defined by a church's governing documents. The civil courts have refrained from resolving disputes over the selection of members on the ground that the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom prevents them from deciding whether or not individuals satisfy the requirements for church membership.

The essence of the relationship between members and a church consists of an agreement, a profession of faith, adherence to church doctrine, and submission to church governance. The membership of a church is typically determined by reference to the church charter and bylaws and to any applicable state corporation law. It is well-settled that (1) the right to determine the qualifications ...

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