Difference between church trials and secular
trials in the U.S.A.

The following chart helps to show some differences between a church and civil court processes. From a United Methodist magazine, The Interpreter, October 2004, p. 23

 

Church Trial

Secular Trial

The Parties

Complainant

Respondent

Plaintiff

Defendant

Oaths

Not required

Required

Counsel

If for a bishop, clergyperson or diaconal minister, then it is a clergyperson in full connection.

If for a layperson, then clergyperson or lay member of the church

Attorney

The Decision

Trial Court of 13

Jury of 12

Deliberation

Closed

Closed

Conviction

Requires at least 9 of 13 votes

Requires unanimous decision

Appeal

Respondent may appeal to Committee on Appeals;

church may not appeal

Defendant may appeal to a higher court;

state may not appeal

Open or Closed?

Closed unless the counsel for the respondent requests that it be open

Generally open

Highest Court

Judicial Council

U.S. Supreme Court



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