• Key point. The civil courts are without authority to review internal church decisions to discipline or dismiss a member.
• Key point. Some courts are willing to engage in "marginal review" of church membership decisions for the limited purpose of deciding if the proper body made the decision.
• Key point. Statements made in the context of a church membership meeting addressing the discipline of a member ordinarily cannot be defamatory.
An Ohio court ruled that it had no authority to review a church's decision to dismiss a member. The court also ruled that it could not review the dismissed member's defamation claim, and that a state nonprofit corporation law did not provide the dismissed member with any basis for suing the church. Here are the facts of this case: A church member sought access to his church's financial records. When church leaders denied this request, the member ...