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Pastor, Church & Law

written by Richard R. Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA

Remedies for Improper Discipline or Dismissal

Volume 2 . Chapter 6 . § 6-10.4
Key point 6-10.4. Courts willing to intervene in disputes challenging the discipline of a church member have granted a variety of remedies to an improperly disciplined member, including reinstatement or monetary damages for defamation or emotional distress.

1. Decisions Refusing to Recognize a Legal Remedy

Obviously, courts that follow the rule of non-intervention in internal church membership determinations will not provide disciplined or dismissed members with any legal remedy since no cognizable legal harm has occurred. To illustrate, a federal court in New York ruled that it had no authority to stop a religious organization from excommunicating one of its members. The member had been threatened with excommunication because of a lawsuit he ...

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