Recent Developments

Issues that affect ministers and churches
Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine Bars Court from Intervention in Dispute over Church Bylaw Compliance
Texas
State:
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 in selecting a new pastor and dismissing several dissident members. In January 2012, a pastor died and a dispute arose over the church's efforts to fill the pastoral vacancy. With respect to a vacancy, the church's bylaws provided:

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Posted: August 22, 2017
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