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 North Carolina appeals court ruled that a trial court did not err in determining it had jurisdiction over a church pastor’s counterclaim because it related to church bylaws and did not involve ecclesiastical matters protected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
A church was incorporated as a North Carolina nonprofit corporation in 1988. At the church’s time of incorporation, the elders acted as the board of directors for the church.
On March 31, 2016, the elders hired a senior pastor for the church. The pastor was employed on an “at-will” basis. The employment agreement letter signed by the pastor in March of 2016 set out his terms of employment, in pertinent part, as follows: