Struggle for Alabama AIDS pastor finally ends

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

(FILE) SHILOH MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH/Flickr

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Christian Examiner) -- The Alabama judge presiding over the case between Juan McFarland and Montgomery's Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church has ruled against McFarland who sought to regain control of the church pulpit after being ousted by members in October.

The request for his resignation came after several shocking sermons in which he confessed that he had been diagnosed with AIDS in 2003 and also had sexual affairs with female church members. It remains unclear if he revealed to the women that he was ill. McFarland also told the congregation he had used drugs and misused church funds.

Last Friday, Judge Charles Price, of the 15th Judicial Circuit of Montgomery County, ruled to permanently boot McFarland as Shiloh's pastor. Price's ruling solidifies a temporary injunction that banned him from church grounds, required him to relinquish keys to church property and remove himself from church bank accounts.

In September, the members voted by majority to terminate McFarland, but he refused to step down. Instead he changed church locks and claimed he could not be fired because of amendments he made to the church constitution in 2013 which extended his contract term for life.

Price said in his ruling that McFarland, who had pastored the church for more than 20 years, was properly terminated in accordance with the church's practice.

The NBC News reported Price's ruling considered McFarland's lifetime contract to be invalid and cited Alabama case law that "any lifetime employment relationship requires that the employee perform his service satisfactorily."

"It is uncontradicted that Rev. Juan D. McFarland was not performing his service as a pastor satisfactorily," the judge wrote in his ruling. "When Rev. Juan McFarland was asked questions concerning his woeful misdeeds as a pastor, he pled the Fifth Amendment."

Kenneth Shinbaum, attorney for Shiloh's deacons, told AL.com the church will now start looking for a new pastor and that deacons and trustees regretted that they had to go to court to force McFarland from the pulpit.

"This is not something they wanted," he said. "They were forced into doing this."