Mark E. Chopko

Document Type



Although the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of religious institutions, it confers no general immunity from liability for their contracts and torts. This Article's study of the case law indicates that claims may be stated against religious institutions if those institutions had the corporate power or ecclesiastical responsibility for the specific matter in dispute, or had themselves taken action in the matter. A general assertion of the potential to take action or potential to control is insufficient to result in a claim against the institution. Liability would reside, if at all, in the entity that has both the juridic power (under the religious polity) and the civil duty to answer for the actions of persons or other entities in the religious structure. Departure from these principles could result in an 'unconstitutional exercise by a court. This Article then applies these principles in a critique of tort liability asserted against religious institutions.