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Court Not Barred by First Amendment’s Religion Clauses in Donor’s Designated Contribution Claim

Key point 10-16.7. Donors may be able to recover designated contributions to a church if their contributions were not applied to the designated purpose, so long as doing so would not implicate religious doctrine.

A Michigan appeals court ruled that the civil courts are not barred by the First Amendment's religion clauses from resolving a donor's claim that the church failed to apply his designated contribution to his designated purpose, so long as religious doctrine was not implicated.

The chairman of a church's board of trustees (the "plaintiff") donated more than $41,000 into a restricted fund whose purpose "was to raise money to expand the church and build a fellowship hall." Several years later, the plaintiff sued the church, claiming that the donated funds had not been used to build a fellowship hall, that the funds were used for other purposes without ...

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