Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Pastor Permitted to Sue Church for Breach of Contract
Have employment contracts reviewed by legal counsel to protect against liability.
Pennsylvania

Key point 2-04.2. Some courts are willing to resolve disputes over the termination of clergy if they can do so without any inquiry into religious doctrine.

A Pennsylvania appeals court ruled that a dismissed pastor was not barred by the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom from suing his former church for breach of contract so long as a resolution of the dispute would not require the court to inquire into religious doctrine or polity. A church hired a pastor in 1999, but did not enter into a written employment agreement with him until 2005. The employment agreement contained a number of provisions, including an employment term of two years. The agreement specified that it could be amended with "only the unanimous consent of both the pastor and the church." In 2006, several church members became dissatisfied with the pastor's performance, which resulted in a congregational vote to terminate his employment contract.

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Posted: March 1, 2011
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