• Key pointTermination Most courts have concluded that they are barred by the first amendment guarantees of religious freedom and nonestablishment of religion from resolving challenges by dismissed clergy to the legal validity of their dismissals.
Key pointDefamation Defamation consists of (1) oral or written statements about another person; (2) that are false; (3) that are "published" (that is, communicated to other persons); and (4) that injure the other person's reputation.
Key point 10-13.2. Several courts have refused to hold churches and denominational agencies liable on the basis of a breach of a fiduciary duty for the sexual misconduct of a minister. In some cases, this result is based on first amendment considerations.
A Texas court ruled that it was barred by the first amendment religion clauses from resolving several claims brought against a church by a former missionary who had contracted a serious illness while engaged in missions work in Guatemala. A young man ("Jon") applied for missionary appointment with the Mormon Church and was sent to Guatemala. Shortly after his arrival, Jon became ill. While he was treated on a number of occasions by medical personnel, his condition did not improve. He had a fever of 106 degrees, experienced severe headaches and a skin rash, and became delirious. At one point he leaped off a moving bus because he thought someone was chasing him. The Church flew Jon back to Utah where he was placed in a "behavioral science unit" of a hospital since there were no diagnosable physical condition. After several days he was discharged and returned to his home in Texas where he was unable to work full time due to his medical difficulties. Though Jon's symptoms indicated that he had contracted malaria, his treating physician could not confirm that he was suffering from that disease.