Civil Court Review of Clergy Termination Disputes—"Exhaustion" of Ecclesiastical Remedies
The courts consistently have held that ministers who fail to "exhaust" their appeals within an ecclesiastical hierarchy are forbidden to seek redress in the civil courts. See, e.g., First Baptist Church v. State of Ohio, 591 F. Supp. 676 (S.D. Ohio 1983); Hickman v. Owens, 322 F. Supp. 1278 (D. Ga. 1971); United Pentecostal Church v. Morrison, 527 P.2d 1169 (Colo. App. 1974); Rodyk v. Ukrainian Autocephalic Orthodox Church, 328 N.Y.S.2d 685 (1972). This means that the courts will refuse to hear controversies involving the dismissal of a minister if the minister failed to pursue the remedies available within his or her church or denomination.
This rule has been recognized by the United States Supreme Court: "In short, the First [Amendment] permits hierarchical religious organizations to establish their own rules and regulations for internal discipline and government, and ...
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