Monday, August 04, 2014

Dispute Over Authority To Fire Minister Dismissed Under Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine

In Anderson v. Truelove, (TX App., July 31, 2014), a Texas appellate court invoked the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine to dismiss a lawsuit brought by Jamall Anderson, the minister of a small 16-member church.  At issue was whether two members who claimed to be a majority of the trustees of the church could dismiss Anderson as minister for taking church funds in order to pay expenses for his sick mother. Two meetings of members-- called without the required days advance notice-- had agreed to forgive Anderson and retain him. The court held that it could not apply the neutral principles approach to decide the dispute because the church's bylaws do not contain any provisions regarding removal of the minister.