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Pastor, Church & Law

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

Judicial Resolution of Church Disputes

Volume 4 . Chapter 9 . § 9-07
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.

1. Decisions of the United States Supreme Court

In Watson v. Jones, the United States Supreme Court developed a framework for the judicial review of ecclesiastical disputes that has persisted essentially unchanged until today, more than a century later. The Court began its landmark opinion by acknowledging that "religious organizations come before us in the same attitude as other voluntary associations for benevolent or charitable purposes, and their rights of property, or of contract, are equally under the protection of the law, and the actions of their members subject to its restraints." ...

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