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Ministerial Exception Prevents Courts from Making Defamation Charges

Pastor accused by church leaders of producing pornography is unable to claim defamation in the courts


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.
Key point 10-15. The First Amendment limits, but does not eliminate, a church's liability for defamation.

A Texas court ruled that the "ministerial exception," which bars civil courts from resolving employment disputes between churches and pastors, prevented it from resolving an associate pastor's claim that he had been defamed by church leaders who accused him of producing and accessing pornography. A church's associate pastor (the "plaintiff") alleged that church officials sought his resignation because he revealed to them that the church had financial problems. In particular, he claimed that he informed church officials "that the church's financial condition was deteriorating and that they ...

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  • June 26, 2014