Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
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 a special membership meeting to determine if the plaintiffs should be excommunicated. At this meeting, the pastor read from a prepared document and made numerous statements about the plaintiffs. These statements included:

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Posted: April 21, 2016
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