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Pastor, Church & LawMember access only

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

Judicial Resolution of Church Disputes

§ 9.07
Key point 9-07. The First Amendment allows civil courts to resolve internal church disputes so long as they can do so without interpreting doctrine or polity.

1. Decisions of the United States Supreme Court

In Watson v. Jones,[129] 80 U.S. 679, 722 (1871) [hereinafter cited as Watson]. See also Bernard, Churches, Members, and the Role of the Courts: Toward a Contractual Analysis, 51 NOTRE DAME LAWYER 545 (1976); Dusenberg, Jurisdiction of Civil Courts over Religious Issues, 20 OHIO ST. L.J. 508 (1959); Ellman, Driven from the Tribunal: Judicial Resolution of Internal Church Disputes, 69 Cal. L. Rev. 1380 (1981); C. Esbeck, Tort Claims Against Churches and Ecclesiastical Officers: The First Amendment Considerations, 89 W. Va. L. Rev. 22-23 (1986); Gilkey, The Judicial Role in Intra-Church Disputes Under the Constitutional Guarantees Relating to Religion, 75 W. Va. L. Rev. 105 (1972); Patton, ...

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