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Review of Church Membership Decisions

Courts generally consider membership decisions to be an ecclesiastical matter.

Key point: Most courts regard a church's membership determinations to be a purely ecclesiastical matter beyond the review of the civil courts.

• A Pennsylvania court refused to order church officials to explain why they refused to admit a person as a member. A member of an Episcopal church asked his church to transfer his membership to another Episcopal church pursuant to an established church procedure. The rector of the second church rejected the transfer of membership without explanation. The member filed a lawsuit asking a court to order church officials to "show cause" why he should not be admitted as a member. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit on the ground that the dispute was doctrinal in nature. The member appealed. A state appeals court ruled that the civil courts are bound by the first amendment guaranty of religious freedom to accept the decisions of religious organizations ...

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Posted:
  • March 1, 1994

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