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Pastor, Church & Law

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

Civil Court Review of Clergy Selection Disputes—Limited Exceptions to the General Rule

Volume 1 . Chapter 2 . § 2-01.5
Key point 2-01.5. A minority of courts are willing to review the selection of ministers in limited circumstances so long as they can do so without any inquiry into religious doctrine.

A few courts have been willing to resolve controversies involving the selection of clergy not involving religious discipline, faith, rule, custom, or law. For example, a minister may have been elected at a meeting that was not properly called. Some courts have concluded that there is no legitimate basis, constitutional or otherwise, for a civil court to refrain from resolving such a dispute. The supreme Court has observed that the civil courts need not stay their hand in every case involving a church dispute, since "not every civil court decision jeopardizes values ...

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