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 Ohio court ruled that it was barred by the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom from resolving an internal church dispute involving the validity of a pastor's removal by the church's board of deacons. For many years, a church was governed by its articles of incorporation and a document titled "Preamble," which apparently served as a set of bylaws. Notably, the Preamble states that the government of the church "is vested in the body of believers who compose it. It is subject to the control of no other ecclesiastical body." Further, the Preamble establishes several offices within the church, including, among others, a pastor, deacons, and trustees. Under the Preamble, the deacons are the "helpers, counselors and assistants to the pastor." Likewise, the trustees are charged with carrying out the "directions of the pastor and the church that have been voted and adopted by the majority membership." Amendments to the Preamble were provided for within the document, which permitted amendments, additions, or repeal of the Preamble by a vote of "at least two-thirds of the members present at the annual business meeting."