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Court Allows Pastor’s Wrongful Dismissal Lawsuit to Proceed

What church leaders should note about this surprising decision by a federal court in Ohio.

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Key point 2-04.02. Some courts are willing to resolve disputes over the termination of clergy if they can do so without any inquiry into religious doctrine.

A federal court in Ohio refused to dismiss a minister’s legal challenge to his termination since the termination may have been based on purely secular grounds and a court could potentially resolve the minister’s lawsuit without implicating church doctrine or polity.

The decision represents a surprising departure from numerous ones previously made by state and federal courts, in which deference is shown to churches regarding pastoral dismissals, based on constitutional considerations. This holding offers important cautions and reminders to church leaders when faced with the possibility of firing a pastor.

Pastor: Elders sought to alienate him from his church

In 2020, a pastor alleged that two church elders (the defendants) took ...

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Posted:
  • March 11, 2022

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