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A Fired Pastor’s Defamation Suit Is Dismissed

Appeals court said the lawsuit was barred due to the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine.”

Key point 2-04.01. Most courts have concluded that they are barred by the First Amendment guarantees of religious freedom and nonestablishment of religion from resolving challenges by dismissed clergy to the legal validity of their dismissals.

A Tennessee appeals court ruled that a dismissed pastor’s defamation lawsuit against his former church was barred by the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine.”


A church’s board of elders called an emergency meeting to address inappropriate Facebook communications the pastor had with a female member of the congregation.

At this meeting the pastor’s resignation was requested. The pastor refused to tender his resignation, and thereafter he received a termination letter from the church that he refused to honor. As a result, a second termination letter was delivered to him. The pastor continued to defy the elders’ ...

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  • August 9, 2021