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Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine Bars Court from Intervention in Dispute over Church Bylaw Compliance

Court could not adjudicate this case without interfering in inherently ecclesiastical matters of pastoral selection and church discipline.

Last Reviewed: March 15, 2021
Key point 2-01.4. The selection of a minister is an ecclesiastical decision that the civil courts ordinarily will not review—even when it is alleged that a church failed to follow its own internal procedures in the selection of a minister, or the selection process was discriminatory.
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.

A Texas court ruled that the "ecclesiastical abstention" doctrine prevented it from resolving an internal church dispute regarding a church's compliance with its bylaws ...

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Posted:
  • August 22, 2017
  • Last Reviewed: March 15, 2021

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