DC high court says pastor can pursue breach of contract claim

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Second Episcopal District African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Prioleau, (DC Ct. App., Aug. 9, 2012), the District of Columbia’s highest appeals court held that the 1st Amendment does not prevent a minister from pursuing a claim for breach of contract against her church.  At issue was the failure of the church to pay Rev. Deloris Prioleau $39,200 it owed her as salary under the contract covering her final year as the church’s pastor. The court concluded that the case should be able to be resolved using neutral principles of law, but if at trial it turns out that matters of doctrinal interpretation or church governance are at issue, the court should then dismiss the case.