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Internal Church Disputes

The courts will not resolve disputes regarding a church's spiritual or ecclesiastical affairs.

Key point 9-07. The First Amendment allows civil courts to resolve internal church disputes so long as they can do so without interpreting doctrine or polity.

* An Alabama court rejected a request by church members to compel a church board to call a general membership meeting for the purpose of taking a vote of confidence on the pastor. Several church members began expressing dissatisfaction with their senior pastor's effectiveness. Many concerns were shared with members of the church board. The board investigated the complaints, counseled with the pastor about the concerns, and formulated plans to resolve the matter. The board then held a meeting at which it passed a vote of confidence in the pastor. Some of the members of the church were unhappy with the board's decision and filed a lawsuit seeking a court order compelling the board to call a meeting of the members to allow the church to ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • March 1, 2007

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