Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Archive for the month “February, 2013”

Got a Criminal Record? Find Out if You Can Clean it Up!

The Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia are truly serving the community; here is another way the Clinic is engaging the needs of its clients and the community in which it is found.    If you have time, be sure to check out this seminar, especially if you are an attorney practicing criminal law.

Exceptions to Ecclesiastical Employment Exemptions

In the article titled “Episcopalian In-Fighting Spreads to Montgomery County Courthouse,” published in the March 2009 edition of Upon Further Review, I reported on the employment matter raised by the Rev. David Moyer against the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania regarding his termination by the Diocese from his position as priest in the Church. Suffice it to say here, the Court did not rule in favor of Fr. Moyer as it did not want to entangle itself into an interchurch squabble.  However, a recent Pennsylvania case, Mundie v. Christ United Church of Christ, 2009 Pa.Super. 262, has delved into the question of when a court may interject itself into a church employment matter.

In Mundie, the Plaintiff, the Rev. Melvin S. Mundie, was employed as a clergyman at Christ United Church of Christ, the Defendant.  Defendant’s governing body, the Consistory, entered into an employment contract with Plaintiff on May 26, 2005.  Along with salary, health insurance, and being permitted to reside in the parsonage, the employment contract also specifically stated that the term of Plaintiff’s employment at Defendant would conclude on June 30, 2007, unless otherwise agreed in writing.  During the course of Plaintiff’s ministry with Defendant, so-called “church problems” arose between Plaintiff and the congregation that led to, ostensibly, a coup, resulting in the congregation taking over the Consistory and firing Plaintiff on August 28, 2006.

Due to what he perceived as an unlawful termination, Plaintiff brought suit against Defendant for breach of his employment contract.  Plaintiff alleged that he was entitled to work for Defendant, collect a salary and health care benefits, and reside in the parsonage until June 30, 2007.  Defendant filed preliminary objections stating that Plaintiff’s employment with Defendant was a religious issue into which courts may not intrude.

The Court noted that, as a basic principle, Defendant is correct; a court may not involve itself in what amounts to a religious issue.  It is also correct to note that, generally speaking, a religious body’s decisions to hire, fire and prescribe duties to its clergy are constitutionally protected and exempt from a court’s analysis.  However, contrarily, a religious body may not avoid a court’s involvement into issues that are exclusively secular.  For example, as theMundie Court noted, issues that are not doctrinal issues include “the meaning of agreements on wills, trusts, contracts, and property ownership.  These disputes are questions of civil law and are not predicated on any religious doctrine.”  Therefore, the narrow issue before theMundie Court was Defendant’s preliminary objections dealing with whether Plaintiff’s employment with Defendant was simply a contractual issue or one that was doctrinal in nature and exempt from court review.

The Court overruled the preliminary objections on the grounds that insufficient discovery had been conducted to shed light on the question of whether Plaintiff’s termination is simply a breach of a secular contract or one that is of more significant doctrinal import.  As a light most favorable to the facts plead in Plaintiff’s Complaint must be shed, the Court concluded, for the purposes of the preliminary objections, that Plaintiff’s claims could be exclusively secular.  Without an Answer or any discovery, Defendant simply did not have sufficient facts to demonstrate anything to the contrary this early in its litigation.  Now that Defendant’s preliminary objections have been overruled, Defendant will have to file an Answer and discovery will presumably ensue.  If, through discovery, it is revealed that this matter is a simple breach of contract, Plaintiff’s case may progress; if it is considered to be a matter of doctrine, the Rev. Mundie’s suit will likely face the same fate as that of Fr. Moyer’s.

Originally published in Upon Further Review on March 4, 2010 and can be viewed here and on my website here.

Let Justice Roll!!

Now hear this!  The Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia is having an upcoming event for any and all inquirers.  The information for the event is below.  NO MONEY WILL BE ASKED OF YOU!  We need lawyers, counselors, chaplains, and non-lawyers of any kind who are interested and may be able to advance this ministry.  Please check us out and RSVP per the below.  Thanks a lot!

You are invited

to Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia’s

“Let Justice Roll” Tour!

When: Thursday, March 21st, 5:30-6:30 pm

Where: 4455 N 6th Street, Phila, PA 19140 (see map)

Come and learn firsthand about CLCP’s mission and impact at our North Philadelphia office!  See our clinic in action and hear stories from our clients. We want to spread the word about the good work CLCP is doing in Philadelphia and gather your feedback. Please RSVP here no later than March 19th.

We look forward to sharing our program with you!

God bless,

Pete Hileman

Peter M. Hileman

Executive Director

Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia

4455 N. Sixth Street, Suite 100

Philadelphia, PA 19140

(215) 399-0064 x700



Divorce After Death?

Here is yet another an article, by Adam S. Bernick, Esquire, who is of counsel to my firm, providing some sound advice and insight into the estate planning process.  This article can be found on my website here and was originally published in Upon Further Review” on December 8, 2009, and can be seen  here.

Union Bashing Frauds and the Fools They Convince

As many of you may know, I am a huge union supporter.  Not long ago phillyburbs.org published a tremendous article called “Union Bashing Frauds and the Fools They Convince” by Frank Arcoleo, Jr. which I think is a great summary of why the union movement must be respected, protected, and advanced.  Protecting unions protects all employees.  Check out the article; it’s well written, very informative, and, I think, rather persuasive.  Thanks!





U.S. Supreme Court Weighs in on Beneficiary Issues in Savings and Investment Plans

Here is an article, by Adam S. Bernick, Esquire, who is of counsel to my firm, providing some sound advice and insight into the estate planning process.  This article can be found on my website here and was originally published in Upon Further Review” on November 10, 2009, and can be seen  here.

Clinic Day 2/7/13!

It’s first Thursday again, which means a trip to the Salvation Army for the Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia.  We have a roster of 8 clients tonight so needless to say we have a full house.  I am happy to say that, unlike last month, we also have a full roster of attorneys to serve them tonight, so this should be a good and productive Clinic tonight.  In addition to our attorneys, I am happy to say that we will also have 2 paralegals assisting us as well as one priest, who happens to be my own parish priest Fr. Mark Rudolph.

I pray that we can all be the face of Christ to those who we serve tonight and people leave blessed, refreshed, and with hope, both in their legal problem and in their outlook eternally as well.

Avoiding Ambiguity in a Will and the Application of the Anti-Lapse Statute

Here is an article, by Adam S. Bernick, Esquire, who is of counsel to my firm, providing some sound advice and insight into the estate planning process.  This article can be found on my website here and was originally published in Upon Further Review” on August 7, 2009, and can be seen here.

Post Navigation