Court: “Unfair” Church Policy Can Be Overturned

The National Post, a Canadian online news service, reported that a ruling by the Alberta Court of Appeal states that secular courts have the authority to overturn religious edicts in certain situations. That court will allow a Calgary resident to challenge his being disfellowshipped and shunned by his Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation.

The news agency’s reporter, Joseph Brean, also reported that the court’s decision was split (2-1) on the ruling. He reported that the dissenting judge’s opinion was that a church “is less like a public company and more like a private bridge club.” The judge felt that a Jehovah’s Witness congregation could, like an exclusive club, choose its own members and decide what their qualifications might be.

This allows the Watchtower to appeal the ruling to the Canadian Supreme Court. According to the National Post, this issue was ruled upon when the court ruled in favor of a man expelled from a Hutterite colony, another cultish religious group.

The plaintiff is Randy Wall. He had been a Jehovah’s Witness for more than 30 years until he was disfellowshipped in 2014. Wall claims the way he was expelled was procedurally unfair because “he was not given details of the allegations against him or told how the discipline process works, nor was he told whether he could have counsel or whether there would be a record of the process.”

According to Brean, the National Post reporter, a final judgement supporting Wall “will be relevant to other religious groups, which often deal with controversial expulsions of members or ministers.” As examples, Brean references a case involving the United Church of Canada; that church is trying to defrock a female cleric “because she is an atheist.” The courts have also ruled against that church for unfairly disciplining some of its ministers.

Appealing religious edicts to a secular court is troublesome. In most cases, the courts have been reluctant to intervene. The National Post reports that “…Since the 1992 Supreme Court decision, they have done so only if the aggrieved party has exhausted all internal processes, or if those processes are unfair.”


Notations from the Court’s ruling:

I. Introduction

[1] The respondent was expelled from the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He filed an originating application for judicial review of that decision. A chambers judge concluded that the Court of Queen’s Bench had jurisdiction to hear the application. The Congregation (and its Judicial Committee and named Elders) appeal. The appellants also apply to strike parts of the respondent’s authorities and the respondent applies for permissions to adduce new evidence.

[2] We dismiss the appeal and find it unnecessary to rule on the two applications.

II. Background

[3] The respondent is a realtor. He was a Jehovah’s Witness from 1980 until his expulsion in April 2014.


Read the entire original National Post article here:

Alberta appeal court rules judges can overturn ‘unfair’ church edicts after man shunned by Jehovah’s Witnesses

LINK to a further in-depth discussion of the above article


Comments

Court: “Unfair” Church Policy Can Be Overturned — 3 Comments

  1. “……… a church “is less like a public company and more like a private bridge club.” The judge felt that a Jehovah’s Witness congregation could, like an exclusive club, choose its own members and decide what their qualifications might be.”

    Exclusive clubs can annul the membership of any person they decide they no longer want to be part of their club for whatever reason, but they don’t the right to force the remaining members not to have any association with that person. Why should Jehovah’s Witnesses have that right? It’s outrageous!

  2. I think that child molestation and problem with drunkenness have different weight. Matter of practicing Shunning from JW members is in some hand logically explained in Judge opinion – “that a church “is less like a public company and more like a private bridge club.” The judge felt that a Jehovah’s Witness congregation could, like an exclusive club, choose its own members and decide what their qualifications might be”.
    Norms of behavior are divided into: morally, customary and legally (or judiciary). If by moral and customary standard society in general (or some part society in specific area, or some group of people in this case JW) do not except that someone is drunk, and they make internal rules how to deal with that issue and person with such alcohol issue, than it is their human right freedom to handle in such way.
    On other side, rest of us have right to valorised, evaluate their normative and make critical opinion … So looking that from this standpoint JW are sort of “club”.
    On the third side, is shunning method, no matter of their reason why are they doing that, punishable as norm of behavior that JW have incorporated in their WT Society ruling, rules, practicing, law?
    Elders, as we see in Australia, will try to defend by all means, with body and soul, that pervert rules done by WT. And Legal Department will give them theirs full support, money and lawyers.
    Justice is tricky and strange, in the World and in the WT JW org World 🙂

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