TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Katharine Heriges on Sep 21, 2017
The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled in a case between the Fayette County Temple Church of God in Christ and its parent denomination, the Church of God in Christ, Inc., (COGIC), headquartered in Memphis. The case culminated in a dispute about the ownership and control of the church property after some members of the church barred the assigned pastor from entering the building or administering the church.  A trial court dismissed the suit, as did the Court of Appeals in Jackson. The Tennessee Supreme Court granted COGIC permission to appeal and overruled  the lower courts, explaining that state courts can and should resolve genuine church property disputes, so long as courts defer to religious organizations on disputes about church discipline, faith, ecclesiastical rule, custom, law, church polity or the internal governance of the religious organization. In this case, the Court held that COGIC was the rightful owner of the Fayette County church’s property based on COGIC’s own governing documents and the fact that the Fayette County church voluntarily agreed to be bound by those documents.