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Court Involvement in Clergy Removal

Court will not settle South Carolina church dispute.

Key point: The civil courts are compelled by the first amendment guaranty of religious freedom to refrain from interfering with the internal church decisions, including decisions regarding the selection and tenure of ministers.

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that it lacked the authority to resolve an internal church dispute regarding the tenure of a pastor. For several years, the membership of a local church was divided over the continued tenure of the pastor. At one point in the dispute, the pastor negotiated a tentative agreement with the board of deacons by which he would resign in return for a severance package. This proposal required approval by the full congregation. A congregational meeting was held in January of 1993 to present the proposed resignation and severance package. At this time the total membership of the church was 423. There were 207 members present at the ...

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Posted:
  • September 1, 1996

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