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Pastor's Age Discrimination Claim Against a Denominational Agency Was Barred by the "Ministerial Exception."

The "ecclesiastical abstention doctrine" does not necessarily preclude resolution of pastor's claims of breach of contract, wrongful eviction, and defamation, so long as doing so would not implicate religious doctrine.

Last Reviewed: March 15, 2021
Key Point 8-10.1. The civil courts have consistently ruled that the First Amendment prevents them from applying employment laws to the relationship between a church and a minister.
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 federal district court for the District of Columbia ruled that a pastor's age discrimination claim against a denominational agency was barred by the "ministerial exception," but the court could resolve the pastor's claims of breach of contract, wrongful eviction, and defamation, so long as doing so would not implicate religious doctrine.

A pastor and his wife organized a church (the "local church") in 1995. The local church affiliated with a Protestant denomination (the "national church") and one of its subdivisions (the ...

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Posted:
  • April 18, 2018
  • Last Reviewed: March 15, 2021

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