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Court Resolves Lawsuit Addressing Pastor's Financial Mismanagement

First Amendment doesn't prevent court from resolving lawsuit brought forth by former board members.

Louisiana
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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.

* A Louisiana court ruled that the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom did not prevent it from resolving a lawsuit brought by former board members of a church seeking redress for the pastor's financial mismanagement. A church's governing board (its "board of deacons") passed a resolution calling for the pastor's termination. In response, the pastor called a special meeting of the congregation to elect a new board of deacons. At the meeting, the pastor's slate of proposed deacons was elected and the dissidents were voted off the board. The dissidents filed a lawsuit claiming that the pastor had mismanaged church property and had misused church funds by, among other things, using church funds for ...

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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:
  • September 1, 2011

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