Beginning in 2016, the headlines of major publications began announcing that Donald Trump had successfully completed a “hostile takeover” of the Republican Party. Whether this appraisal is accurate or not, it reflects concern about the associational integrity of a voluntary private organization—the Republican Party—and it suggests that some forms of organizational transformation are problematic. Moreover, the same concern might arise regarding other private associations, including religious associations. Yet, given that some transformation is inevitable and universal within religious and other voluntary organizations, it would be unwarranted to assume that all change within a religious organization is necessarily problematic.

This Article aims to grapple with the concept of hostile takeover and considers whether the state should ever care about it—that is, whether the state should ever act either to prevent or to encourage hostile takeover. Part I of this Article attempts to define hostile takeover in the context of religious organizations and compares it to the concept of hostile takeover in some secular contexts. Part II then considers what the position of the state should be vis-à-vis hostile takeover of religious organizations. This Article ultimately concludes that the state has only a very limited interest in either the facilitation or the prevention of hostile takeover.


First Amendment, Free Exercise Of Religion, Establishment Clause, Freedom Of Association, Voluntary Associations, CLS v. Martinez

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97 Washington University Law Review 1883 (2020)


COinS B. Jessie Hill Faculty Bio