Church membership is not guaranteed

Published 8:02 am Saturday, January 30, 2021

Dear Lawyer Mark: I just don’t know what to do.
A few weeks ago, my church decided to take it upon themselves to remove me from the church’s membership.
I have tried to lead an exemplary Christian life, and some members of the church didn’t like the fact that I expected all of them to act as the Bible teaches.
Some of them got together and had me thrown out.
Don’t I have a Constitutional right to go there and be a member?
I don’t even think they followed the church rules when they threw me out.
Could you please tell me whether I have a legal right to remain a member? — PRAYING IN PERRY
Dear Praying: Your question deals with quite a few subjects, some of which I’ll try to answer.
First of all, individuals do not have a constitutional right to join every group in the United States.
Typically, the constitutional involvement only goes to the fact that most groups cannot discriminate against individuals of certain classes, such as those based on sex, race, etc.
Beyond those requirements, most groups are entitled to set their own membership requirements.
As to your question about whether they could remove you or not, courts are only allowed to look at whether or not the proper church authority removed you from the roles.
The courts cannot look into whether or not the church followed its by-laws correctly.
Therefore, if the committee responsible for removing members is the one that removed you, and there was no discrimination based on a constitutionally protected status, you most likely do not have a cause of action.
I would suggest that even if you feel like you belong in that church, you seek out a new one.
Most churches in the area are always looking for a few good parishioners and attempting to force your way back into your former church could do more harm than good to the congregation.

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.

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