An Alabama church properly fired its minister after he admitted having sex with married church members and not telling them he had AIDS, a judge ruled Friday.
Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price ruled that the Rev. Juan McFarland did not have a lifetime appointment as pastor of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, as he had contended in court.
The judge said the church’s constitution allows the members to vote to terminate the minister and they did that with lopsided votes in October and November.
The church’s deacons and trustees sued McFarland when he continued to show up after an 80-1 vote to fire him on Oct. 5. The judge’s ruling requires McFarland to stay away from the church, return any church property he has and inform the church’s banks that he can’t sign financial documents.
The chairman of the board of deacons, Nathan Williams, said the judge gave the church’s leaders what they wanted.
“Now we’ve got some healing to go through,” he said.
McFarland’s attorney did not return a phone message and email seeking comment.
McFarland, 47, pastored the church near the Alabama State University campus for 23 years before a sermon in August in which he said he had HIV. Then in another sermon in September he made several confessions: He was diagnosed with AIDS in 2003; he had sex with married female church members in the church complex, but not in the sanctuary; he did not tell them about his illness; and he used illegal drugs, including on Sundays.
McFarland’s attorney, Dwayne Brown, contended the church had changed its constitution in January 2013 to give McFarland his job until he either resigned or died. But the judge said the change was not valid because McFarland had attempted to amend the constitution without giving the required two-week notice to members and without a quorum of members present.
McFarland’s attorney also contended the courts had no role in a church dispute. Price wrote that the court was not getting involved in ecclesiastical matters or doctrine, but was resolving a dispute involving control of the assets and property of the 95-year-old church.
At a hearing in the case Monday, McFarland testified briefly with his voice soft and halting. His attorney said he was terminally ill with AIDS.
SOURCE: The Associated Press