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Churches' Right to Remove Clergy

Key point 2-04.1. Most courts have concluded that they are barred by the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom and nonestablishment of religion from resolving challenges by dismissed clergy to the legal validity of their dismissals.

A Texas court ruled that the civil courts are barred by the "ecclesiastical abstention doctrine" from resolving church disputes over the dismissal of ministers. In September of 2013 a pastor telephoned several church members to call a meeting for that evening. During the meeting the pastor confessed that he had taken money from the church to pay expenses for his sick mother. He asked the members if they wanted to retain him as pastor, and according to one of the attendees, most of the members present at the meeting agreed to forgive him and retain him.

One member disagreed, claiming that members had not received proper notice of the meeting. Ultimately, ...

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  • June 29, 2015

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