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Indiana Court Rules First Amendment Prevents It from Resolving Pastor’s Compensation Lawsuit

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.

An Indiana appeals court ruled that it was barred by the First Amendment from resolving a dispute between a church and former pastor over compensation and benefit issues, and rejected the pastor's claim that it could resolve the dispute through application of neutral principles of law requiring no recourse to church doctrine or polity. On October 17, 2010, a pastor (the "plaintiff") was "called" to be the pastor of a Presbyterian church in Indiana. On that date, the plaintiff entered into a contract that covered a three-year period beginning on October 18, 2010. The "Terms of Call" set forth in the contract provided that the pastor would receive a stated ...

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  • June 23, 2016

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