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First Amendment Bars the Civil Courts from Intervening in Church Elections

A New Jersey court ruled that a trial court acted improperly in overseeing a church business meeting and the election of a pastor.

Last Reviewed: March 31, 2021
Key point 6-06.1. Churches select their officers and directors in various ways. For example, it is common for members of a church board to be elected by the church's membership, while officers are elected by the board. The civil courts generally refrain from resolving disputes involving the selection of church officers and directors on the ground that the first amendment guaranty of religious freedom prevents them from becoming involved in ecclesiastical disputes.
Key point 6-09.2. Church members have such legal authority as is vested in them by their church's governing documents, and in some cases by state nonprofit corporation law.

A New Jersey court ruled that a trial court acted improperly in overseeing a church business meeting and the election of a pastor in a church that was beset with internal strife over doctrinal issues.

A Baptist church was organized in 1980. The church's ...

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Posted:
  • January 1, 2003
  • Last Reviewed: March 31, 2021

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