Church Of God In Christ, Inc., Et Al. v. L. M. Haley Ministries, Inc., Et Al.

Church Of God In Christ, Inc., Et Al. v. L. M. Haley Ministries, Inc., Et Al.
W2015-00509-SC-R11-CV

We granted this appeal to determine whether the Court of Appeals properly affirmed the trial court’s decision dismissing this lawsuit involving a dispute over the right to use and control church property for lack of subject matter jurisdiction based on the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine. This doctrine derives from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and prohibits civil courts from resolving church disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice. We conclude that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine does not apply in this lawsuit. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals affirming the trial court’s dismissal is reversed. Furthermore, we conclude that the undisputed facts establish that the plaintiffs are entitled to summary judgment, and we remand this matter to the trial court for any other further proceedings and orders that may be necessary to afford the plaintiffs possession and control of the disputed church real property and to address the plaintiffs’ requests for an accounting and control of the disputed church personal property.

Authoring Judge: 
Justice Cornelia A. Clark
Originating Judge: 
Chancellor Martha Brasfield
Date Filed: 
Thursday, September 21, 2017