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Pastor, Church & Law

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

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

Volume 1 . Chapter 2 . § 2-04.1
Key point 2-04.1. Most courts have concluded that they are barred by the First amendment guarantees of religious freedom and non-establishment of religion from resolving challenges by dismissed clergy to the legal validity of their dismissals.

1. Supreme Court Decisions

In the landmark case of Watson v. Jones,100 the United States Supreme Court cited three grounds supporting the general rule of judicial nonintervention in clergy termination cases. First, the Court based the rule on the "implied consent" of church members to the exclusive jurisdiction of their church:

All who unite themselves to such a body do so with an implied consent to its government, and are bound to submit to it. But it would be a vain consent and would lead to the total subversion ...

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