Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Pastor Sues Church for Discrimination and Defamation
Courts are prevented from applying employment laws to churches and ministers.

Key point 8-10.1. The civil courts have consistently ruled that the First Amendment prevents the civil courts from applying employment laws to the relationship between a church and a minister.

A federal court in Nebraska ruled that it was barred by the First Amendment from resolving a minister's discrimination and defamation claims against his church. A Catholic archdiocese assigned a priest (the "plaintiff") to work as an assistant pastor at a church. Conflicts immediately arose between the plaintiff and the church's senior pastor over several issues, including the manner in which the plaintiff performed religious liturgies, services, and teaching assignments; his availability for nightly parish activities, office hours, and other parishioner services; and his relationship with parish staff. The bishop ultimately transferred the plaintiff to another parish due to these continuing concerns. The plaintiff claimed that the senior pastor of the previous church had sexually harassed him, and, when he complained to his bishop about the behavior, the pastor retaliated against him by making false accusations and unfounded criticisms concerning his work performance. The bishop sent an email to members of the prior church stating that the plaintiff's reassignment was due to "serious concerns."

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Posted: November 1, 2009
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