Columbia church asks judge to bar minister who was fired Baptist congregation fearful of 'violence'


The trustees of a Columbia church filed suit yesterday to keep a minister who has been fired from entering the pulpit or calling a congregational meeting, saying they fear "violence will occur" unless the court acts.

The suit was filed by the board of trustees of St. John the Evangelist Baptist Church against the Rev. Herbert H. Eaton, a minister of the American Baptist congregation for 10 years.

Howard County Circuit Judge J. Thomas Nissel signed an order setting a hearing Nov. 5 on the board's request for a temporary injunction to prevent Mr. Eaton from entering the pulpit or calling a special church meeting.

Mr. Eaton declined to comment on the suit, when reached by phone at his Columbia home yesterday.

Alice G. Pinderhughes, the church's attorney, said that the congregation of about 300 had voted 61 percent to 39 percent on Aug. 26 to bring Mr. Eaton's employment to an end.

The same day, she said, the church's board of trustees voted 11-0 to fire him, and its board of deacons agreed with a vote of 6-3.

She said that after working out a financial agreement, the trustees sent the minister a letter Oct. 6 saying his job had been terminated and giving him 60 days' severance pay totaling $5,123 plus one week's salary of $640.40.

The suit said Mr. Eaton "ignored the dictates and entered the pulpit Oct. 7 and attempted to enter the pulpit last Sunday, but realized it would be futile" because an associate minister was already delivering the service.

The congregation meets at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center in Columbia.

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