Key point. Church members generally have no right to inspect church records unless such a right is conferred by state nonprofit corporation law, a church's charter or bylaws, state securities law (if the church has issued securities), or a subpoena. Church records enjoy no privilege against disclosure, with the exception of documents that are protected by the clergy-penitent privilege under state law.
Key point. According to the majority view, the civil courts will not resolve disputes challenging a church's discipline of a member since the first amendment guaranty of religious freedom prevents them from deciding who are members in good standing of a church.
A Colorado court ruled that a church member's legal authority to inspect church records pursuant to state nonprofit corporation law ended when his membership was revoked by the church board.
A church conducted a series of fundraising campaigns in the 1970s and 1980s that resulted in massive financial failures, multiple lawsuits, and enormous debt. A 1986 capital fundraising campaign that was launched to pay off the church's unpaid creditors resulted in a class action lawsuit. In 1991, this lawsuit was settled by agreement of a majority of the class members in exchange for the church's payment of $700,000. Despite this settlement, many of the church's original debts remained unpaid. In 1999 the church membership voted not to attempt to pay any remaining unpaid creditors.