|The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State|
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From The Myth of Separation, page 64, Barton writes:
|This case involved a conflict between a minister of the German Reformed Christian Church and the church from which he had been dispossessed. In the introduction to the case, the judge who delivered the ruling noted that it was a decision in which all of the Justices unanimously concurred. What was it upon which they all unanimously concurred?
Religion is of general and public concern, and on its support depend, in great measure, the peace and good order of government, the safety and happiness of the people. By our form of government, the Christian religion is the established religion; and all sects and denominations of Christians are placed upon the same equal footing, and are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty.
Again, the same recurring theme, general Christianity---but not denominational Christianity---is part of Government in this nation.
Facts: Runkel was removed as minister of the German or High Dutch Reformed Christian Church of Frederick-Town, Maryland, but remained in possession of the parsonage. Runkel sued for a writ of mandamus to be restored to his position, alleging that the new minister, one William Schneyder, was not a member of the synod or church. The rules of the German or High Dutch Reformed Christian Church required that the minister be a member of the synod.
Issue: Was Runkel entitled to a writ of mandamus restoring him as minister?
Comment: There is really nothing extraordinary about this case. While the government tries to avoid entanglement in religious disputes, in some cases the courts must intervene. In some churches, such as the Baptists, church property generally belongs to autonomous congregations. In such churches, the courts will generally enforce the church's own rules and will uphold a decision of the majority of the congregation. Other churches, such as the Roman Catholic Church, have established hierarchies and title to church property is controlled by the diocese or other central authority. In such churches, the courts will again enforce the church's own rules.