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Clergy - Part 2

Removal

California
State:

• In a significant decision, a California state appeals court ruled that a Catholic priest who had been discharged from his duties as a chaplain at a Catholic hospital could not sue the hospital for wrongful discharge. The court observed that "the question of who shall fill the pastoral position is deemed so close to the heart of the religious purpose of the church or congregation as to be entirely an ecclesiastical matter protected from any secular judicial intrusion by the first amendment." A chaplain at a church-operated hospital is subject to this rule, if his or her duties are primarily religious. Since "government standards have no place in selecting spiritual leaders," the civil courts cannot resolve lawsuits by discharged clergy who claim that their discharge was wrongful. Presumably, the court added, the same rule might extend to any church employee whose role is primarily ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • January 1, 1988

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