Thursday, October 02, 2014

South African Appeals Court Says Minister Must Arbitrate Dispute With Church

In De Lange v. Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, (S, Afr. Sup. Ct, App., Sept. 29, 2014), the South African Supreme Court of Appeal refused to set aside an arbitration agreement under which a minister was required to arbitrate her dispute with the church that suspended her as a minister after she announced she would enter a same-sex civil union.  The court said in part:
As the main dispute in the instant matter concerns the internal rules adopted by the Church, such a dispute, as far as is possible, should be left to the Church to be determined domestically and without interference from a court. A court should only become involved in a dispute of this kind where it is strictly necessary for it to do so. Even then it should refrain from determining doctrinal issues in order to avoid entanglement. It would thus seem that a proper respect for freedom of religion precludes our courts from pronouncing on matters of religious doctrine, which fall within the exclusive realm of the Church.
The court also issued a press release describing its decision.  IOL News reports on the decision.