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

Judicial Nonintervention

§ 6.10.01
Key point 6-10.01. According to the majority view, the civil courts will not resolve disputes challenging a church's discipline of a member since the First Amendment guaranty of religious freedom prevents them from deciding who are members in good standing of a church.

In Watson v. Jones,[261] 80 U.S. 679, 722 (1871). 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." Though recognizing in principle the authority ...

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