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Pastor, Church & LawMember access only

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

Hierarchical Churches—the Compulsory Deference Rule

§ 7.03.02
Key point 7-03.02. Some courts apply the "compulsory deference" rule in resolving disputes over the ownership and control of property in "hierarchical" churches. Under this rule, the civil courts defer to the determinations of denominational agencies in resolving such disputes.

A few states have adopted the compulsory deference rule in resolving church property disputes involving hierarchical churches, and have awarded title to local church property to a denominational agency.[50] See, e.g., Cumberland Presbytery v. Branstetter, 824 S.W.2d 417 (Ky. 1992) (Cumberland Presbyterian Church retained title to the property of a local church that voted to disaffiliate, because of a trust provision in the national church's constitution); Dixon v. Edwards, 172 F. Supp.2d 702 (D. Md. 2001), aff'd, 290 F.3d 699 (4th Cir. 2002); The American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Greek ...

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