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In a Battle of Bylaws, Court’s Intervention with Pastor’s Firing Found Proper

Appellate court says church dispute didn't involve doctrine, meaning lower court's decision could stand.

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.

Background

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:

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Posted:
  • May 25, 2022

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