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Our organization has no rules for membership. If you pay the yearly fee, you are deemed to be a member. Recently, however, the President and Vice-President of our organization wanted to deny membership renewal to a long-time member. Their tactic: if she tried to pay in person, the cheque would be refused; If she mailed her cheque to the President, he would not cash it or he would return it to her on the grounds that the organizations name was incorrectly stated; the amount was incorrect, etc. He then told the individual that membership could be granted if she were to meet with the Vice-President who would tell her what she needed to do to have her membership renewed. Obviously, this is infra dig but, in the absence of rules, how should the organization have proceeded?

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First, you should check what your bylaws say about membership. It would be very strange for them to say absolutely nothing at all. It may be that they just say something like "A person can join by paying the annual membership fee."

In general, it is a matter of bylaws interpretation how such a clause might allow for membership restrictions, but personally I would tend to interpret it strictly. If it says that a person joins by paying the membership fee, with no restrictions on who can do it, then any restriction would contradict the bylaw and be illegal. Similar goes for renewing: unless the bylaws explicitly allow restrictions on renewal, there probably cannot be any except as are imposed through disciplinary proceedings.

The easiest way to proceed, assuming that the President and Vice-President are alone in their point of view, would be to have the Board or other governing body order that the renewal be accepted (or appoint someone else, such as the Treasurer, to handle the process), and then sort things out later. I would also strongly consider disciplinary proceedings against the President and Vice-President, since they are planning to act in bad faith on behalf of the organization.

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