Distinctions Between the Terms Pastor, Clergy, Minister
Key point 1-01. The terms pastor, clergy, and minister are used in a number of state and federal laws. Most courts construe these terms broadly, and disregard any distinctions among them. A few courts have construed these terms more narrowly, and attempt to distinguish them.
The terms pastor, clergy, and minister often are used interchangeably. Such usage is perfectly appropriate in most cases. Occasionally, however, it is important to distinguish among these terms, since many state and federal laws refer to only one or some of them. For example, the Military Selective Service Act provides that regular or duly ordained ministers of religion shall be exempt from training and service. 50 U.S.C. App. § 456(g)(1). Whether a representative of an organized religion may validly solemnize a marriage depends, in most states, upon his or her being characterized as clergy, a minister, or a ...
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