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Decision No. 605

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October 27 1988
In Re: Constitutionality of Legislation Prohibiting General Board or Agency Employees From Serving on Certain General Conference Legislative Committees.

Digest of Case

Legislation prohibiting general board or agency employees from serving on certain General Conference Legislative Committees is not constitutional and is therefore null and void.

Statement of Facts

On May 6, 1988 the General Conference voted concurrence with a petition saying: Paid employees, whether executive, support staff or otherwise, of any board or agency of the United Methodist Church shall be ineligible to serve as a voting member of a legislative committee which will act upon the programmatic or financial proposals of the board or agency to which they are related. The constitutionality of this legislation was then referred to the Judicial Council. JURISDICTION The Judicial Council has jurisdiction under  2607 of the 1984 Discipline. ANALYSIS The legislation in question would prohibit paid employees of any board or agency of The United Methodist Church from serving as voting members of a legislative committee acting upon any proposal of the board or agency to which they are related. The rationale for this legislation was that such service on the legislative committee would be a conflict of interest. The Constitution  15.14 gives the General Conference power To secure the rights and privileges of membership in all agencies, programs and institutions in The United Methodist Church regardless of race or status. The General Conference membership is composed of equal numbers of clergy and lay persons. Legislation which comes before each session of the General Conference concerns items such as pension rights, housing, rights to appointment, all of which are of financial or other concern to every clergy delegate. In the strictest sense this might be considered a conflict of interest; but in order to carry out the work of the General Conference it is necessary for clergy delegates to sit on legislative committees and vote on items in which they have a personal interest, financial or otherwise. Prohibiting employees of a board or agency from serving on a legislative committee while allowing unpaid members of the agency having the same "conflict of interest" to serve would create a class of persons who are discriminated against by virtue of their status. This would be a violation of Discipline 15.14. There is nothing in the Constitution which prohibits paid staff from election as delegates to General Conference. This legislation would limit the representation at General Conference of those Annual Conferences which choose legally to elect paid staff.

Decision

Legislation prohibiting general board or agency employees from serving on certain legislative committees of the General Conference would create a class of persons whose rights as delegates would not be equal to all other delegates. This is a violation of the Constitution  15.14 and such legislation is null and void.

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