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Pastor, Church & Law

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

Hierarchical Churches—Neutral Principle of Law

Volume 2 . Chapter 7 . § 7-03.3
Key point 7-03.3. Most courts apply the "neutral principles of law" rule in resolving disputes over the ownership and control of property in "hierarchical" churches. Under this rule, the civil courts apply neutral principles of law, involving no inquiry into church doctrine, in resolving church property disputes. Generally, this means applying neutral legal principles to nondoctrinal language in any one or more of the following documents: (1) deeds to church property; (2) a church's corporate charter; (3) a state law addressing the resolution of church property disputes; (4) church bylaws; or (5) a parent denomination's bylaws.

Most state courts have adopted the neutral principles of law approach in resolving church property disputes involving ...

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