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Dismissed Minister Sues Former Church

Courts are reluctant to resolve employment disputes between ministers and churches.

Minnesota
State:
Key point. The civil courts are prohibited by the first amendment's ban on the establishment of religion from resolving lawsuits brought by dismissed clergy challenging their dismissals, especially if the resolution of such a dispute would require consideration of ecclesiastical matters.

A Minnesota court ruled that the first amendment's "nonestablishment of religion" clause prevented it from resolving a dismissed minister's lawsuit against his former church. A Lutheran church installed a new pastor. The "letter of call" described certain elements of the relationship between the church and pastor, including the terms of a compensation package which was subject to annual review. Financial problems and conflicts between church members and their previous pastor regarding theological and administrative matters existed at the church before the new pastor's arrival and continued throughout ...

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Posted:
  • September 1, 1997

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