Wednesday, January 03, 2018

11th Circuit: Clergyman's Right To Retirement Benefits Was Ecclesiastical Matter

In Myhre v. Seventh-Day Adventist Church Reform Movement American Union International Missionary Society, (11th Cir., Jan 2, 2018), the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a suit by a retired clergyman who contended that his retirement benefits were wrongfully terminated.  Concluding that the district court lacked jurisdiction because the subject-matter of the dispute was purely ecclesiastical in nature, the appeals court said in part:
Myhre’s claims, which were predicated on his defrocking, his excommunication, and the termination of his retirement benefits due to a “theological disagreement” would have required encroachment into matters of church dogma and governance. Based on “the separation of church and state principles required by the [E]stablishment and [F]ree [E]xercise [C]lauses of the [F]irst [A]mendment,” ..., the district court could not interfere with the purely ecclesiastical decisions of the American Union regarding Myhre’s fitness to serve in the clergy or to remain a member of the denomination.