Successful defense of religious denomination in ecclesiastical dispute.
We were granted summary judgment in a case involving a dispute between a religious denomination (our client), and one of its local churches. The client invoked its judicial process, allowing it to assume control of a local church due to declining membership. The pastor of the local church refused to vacate the parsonage. The local church asserted the denomination lacked the authority to assume control over it and argued that it was never actually part of the larger denomination. The issues involved First Amendment case law, which address whether and to what extent the courts can decide ecclesiastical disputes, and whether the religious denomination was a hierarchical church or a congregational church. The court accepted our argument that the local church was part of the denomination, that the denomination was hierarchical and that the First Amendment allowed the court to decide the dispute. The court granted our request to allow the denomination to assume control of the local church.