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Minnesota Court Rules on the Extent of First Amendment Protections for Church Discipline

Key point 6-10.1. According to the majority view, the civil courts will not resolve disputes challenging a church's discipline of a member since the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom prevents them from deciding who are members in good standing of a church.
Key point 9-07. The First Amendment allows civil courts to resolve internal church disputes so long as they can do so without interpreting doctrine or polity.
Key point 10-15. The First Amendment limits, but does not eliminate, a church's liability for defamation.

A Minnesota court ruled that it was barred by the "ecclesiastical abstention" doctrine from resolving two church members' claims that they had been defamed by statements made about them in a church disciplinary meeting.

An elderly married couple (the "plaintiffs") were longstanding members of a Lutheran church. The church leadership convened ...

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Posted:
  • April 21, 2016

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