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Dismissing a Minister for Wrongdoing

Take care when terminating staff over moral conduct.

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 California court ruled that a church's music minister who was dismissed after it was learned that he was homosexual could not sue the church and church leaders for defamation and invasion of privacy as a result of statements made to the staff and congregation. An adult male (the "plaintiff") was licensed as a minister by a conservative, evangelical church. He was employed by the church as its worship minister for six years, and then became its worship director. As worship director, he directed all aspects of congregational worship.

The plaintiff was homosexual, but never revealed his sexual orientation to any of the church elders because of his perception ...

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  • July 1, 2009