Civil Court Review of Clergy Selection Disputes—the General Rule of Non-Intervention
Key point 2-01.04.The selection of a minister is an ecclesiastical decision that the civil courts ordinarily will not review—even when it is alleged that a church failed to follow its own internal procedures in the selection of a minister, or the selection process was discriminatory.
What authority do the civil courts have to review church or denominational decisions regarding the selection of clergy? The United States Supreme Court has ruled that "[f]reedom to select the clergy, where no improper methods of choice are proven, we think, must now be said to have federal constitutional protection as a part of the free exercise of religion against state interference." Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, 344 U.S. 94, 116 (1952). Similarly, the Supreme Court has observed that "it is the function of the church authorities to determine what the essential qualifications of ...
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