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Court Intervention in Church Legal Disputes

If religious doctrine is involved, courts typically won't intervene in governance disputes.

Key point 6-12.4. Most courts refuse to intervene in church disputes concerning the validity of a membership meeting that was not conducted in accordance with the procedural requirements specified in the church's governing documents. However, some courts are willing to intervene in such disputes if they can do so without inquiring into religious doctrine or polity.

A Texas appeals court ruled that it was barred by the "ecclesiastical abstention doctrine" from resolving a lawsuit brought by former church members alleging that the church failed to follow its bylaws in various respects. Former members of a church (the "plaintiffs") sued the church and its trustees (the "defendants") alleging that they breached their obligations to the plaintiffs, as members of the church, by failing to conduct elections for trustees; improperly conducting general meetings without a quorum; adopting amendments ...

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Posted:
  • July 1, 2012

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