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Pastor, Church & Law

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

Civil Court Review of Clergy Selection Disputes—The General Rule of Non-Intervention

Volume 1 . Chapter 2 . § 2-01.4
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.

Question and answer

Q What authority do the civil courts have to review church or denominational decisions regarding the selection of clergy?A The United States Supreme Court has ruled that "[f]reedom to select the clergy, where no improper methods of choice are proven, we think, must now be said to have federal constitutional protection as a part of the free exercise of religion against state interference." Similarly, the Supreme Court has observed that "it ...

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