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Former Director of Evangelization Sues Diocese for Wrongful Termination

Courts generally cannot resolve church employment disputes.

Key Point 2-04.1 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.

A Washington state appeals court ruled that the First Amendment prevented it from resolving a claim of wrongful termination by the former director of evangelization of a diocese. A Catholic diocese hired a man ("Bruce") as director of evangelization. Bruce's job description defined his duties to include the development and implementation of "evangelization adult formation programs in Christian discipleship, Scripture, the Catholic Faith as summarized in the Creed, Sacraments, Liturgy, Morality, Spirituality, Evangelization and Social Justice with the goal of preparing every Catholic for ministry in the Church and mission in society." Bruce helped compile ...

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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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  • January 1, 2008