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Court Can’t Resolve a Dismissed Minister’s Breach of Contract Claim

Key point 8-10.1. The civil courts have consistently ruled that the First Amendment prevents the civil courts from applying employment laws to the relationship between a church and a minister.

A federal appeals court ruled that it was barred by the “ministerial exception” from resolving a dismissed minister’s breach of contract claim against his former church despite his insistence that the dispute could be resolved without the need for the court to interpret or apply church doctrine. In December 2012, a church’s deacon board recommended, and the church voted unanimously to accept, a candidate for the position of church pastor. In March 2013, the pastor and church officials executed an employment contract (“the Agreement”) establishing that the pastor would serve as the church’s pastor for a 20-year term, beginning December 2012 and subject to termination ...

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  • April 30, 2019