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Former Minister Sues Church for Wrongful Dismissal

Courts generally will not intervene in churches' ministerial employment decisions.

Minnesota
State:
Key point. It is the prevailing view that the civil courts are prohibited by the first amendment guaranty of religious freedom from resolving lawsuits brought by dismissed clergy challenging their dismissals, particularly if the resolution of such a dispute would require consideration of ecclesiastical matters. Most courts have concluded that this prohibition on judicial intervention in clergy employment decisions extends to collateral claims, such as defamation.

A Minnesota court ruled that an assistant pastor who was dismissed by his employing church after the congregation voted to eliminate his position for financial reasons could not sue the church for breach of contract or defamation. An ordained minister was hired as assistant pastor by a local church in 1990, and was dismissed in 1992 after the congregation voted to eliminate his position. The church claimed that this action ...

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Posted:
  • September 1, 1997

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