Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Mississippi Supreme Court Rules First Amendment Bars Resolving Pastor's Dismissal Suit
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.
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.

The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom prevented the civil courts from resolving a pastor's claim that his church acted unlawfully in voting to dismiss him. A church placed its pastor on paid administrative leave after he was accused of inappropriate sexual contact with a minor. When the church members decided to vote on whether to retain him as pastor, he filed a lawsuit opposing the vote. The pastor claimed any action taken outside a "properly called business meeting" would be invalid, and he claimed the upcoming meeting was not properly called because "(1) there had been no certification of the list of members in good standing who would be entitled to vote"; (2) absent such certification, adequate notice to eligible members could not be accomplished; and (3) the state denominational guidelines had not been followed because "there had been no attempts at conciliation or other notice given to the pastor as required." The pastor further alleged he would be "irreparably harmed" if he was "voted out as pastor," in that his reputation would suffer, he would lose his income, and he would suffer emotionally.

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