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Courts and Churches—Interfering in Some Ways But Not Others

Not everything a church does to a pastor is outside the reach of the court. That is a recent lesson church officials learned in a case out of Ohio federal court dealing with the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine. Also known as the church autonomy doctrine, this is the principle that civil courts will stay out of the doctrinal and important decisions a church makes, such as the decision to fire a pastor or remove a parishioner from membership. This case, Barrow v. Living Word Church, et al.,1 is an interesting twist on the doctrine, and serves as a word of caution for churches.

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Part 6: Legal Problems with Pre-Employment Evaluations

There has been a lot of back and forth about how the mission must take care during prefield screening not to run afoul of the ADA. I agree. Under the ADA, before you can give an applicant a “medical examination,” which includes most psychological screenings, you have to first consider all the non-medical information and hand out a conditional offer.

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