PLANO, Texas, Aug. 29, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, Liberty Institute filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Texas Supreme Court to encourage the Court to follow the Constitution and prohibit government interference in church property disputes. In 2009, a property dispute ensued when the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth decided to break away from the national Episcopal body over a theological disagreement regarding the issue of marriage. A state district court judge ruled that the diocese's property should be surrendered to the national body.
According to the U.S. Supreme Court, a civil court cannot intrude into the internal matters of church governance. Courts should not get involved in internal church property disputes but rather should defer to the highest church authority on the issue. If there is a legitimate dispute about authority, courts should dismiss the case and refuse to become involved in resolving such religious doctrinal disputes.
"The First Amendment of the Constitution prohibits civil courts from resolving whether a church complied with its own laws and regulations," said Hiram Sasser, Liberty Institute's Director of Litigation. "Therefore, civil courts must apply a 'religious question' doctrine and dismiss church property disputes when it is unclear which side of the dispute is the highest church authority on the issue. In this case, the authority of the diocese national body is unclear and disputed."
In Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Church & School v. EEOC, Liberty Institute filed a similar brief in the U.S. Supreme Court to protect church autonomy. The brief defended a broad interpretation of the ministerial exception rule that protects religious ministries and schools from the government interfering with whom they choose to hire. In a unanimous decision, the Court flatly rejected the Obama administration's arguments that the government may regulate the hiring of ministers and religious teachers. As a result, churches and schools may hire employees based on their own criteria free from government involvement.
About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a non-profit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious freedoms across America—in our schools, for our churches and throughout the public arena. Liberty's vision is to reestablish religious liberty in according with the principles of or nation's Founders. For information about Liberty Institute, visit www.LibertyInstitute.org.
SOURCE Liberty Institute