Disfellowshipping decision to go before Canadian Supreme Court

by Simon 48 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • Richard Oliver
    Richard Oliver

    It also appears that there may be some confusion. The appeal is not whether Watchtower and the Congregation did something wrong in this case, that has not even been established at the trial court level. What Watchtower is appealing is if a secular court has the right to even hear the case in the first. place.

  • jp1692

    It is very telling what Jayden MacEwan, the lawyer for the Highwood congregation, has said in this case:

    "Can the court decide who you should be forced or compelled to worship God with? Or is that not more just a purely personal decision?"

    What if we rephrased his question and redirected it back at him and the organization:

    "Can a JW Judicial Committee decide who you should be forbidden to worship God with, or even to associate with or talk to? Or is that not more just a purely personal decision?"

    Blatant, one-sided hypocrisy should be exposed and opposed. Institutional shunning is wrong.

  • OrphanCrow
    RO: What Watchtower is appealing is if a secular court has the right to even hear the case in the first. place.

    That is correct.

    From the article:

    The Supreme Court will determine whether the Court of Queen's Bench has jurisdiction to decide on the matter of Wall's expulsion from the church.

    What the Supreme Court will be determining is if secular law can be brought to bear in matters of religious law.

    For anyone not familiar with Canadian law, "the Court of Queen's Bench is the Superior Trial Court for the Province, hearing trials in civil and criminal matters and appeals from decisions of the Provincial Court." Queen's Bench courts have federally appointed judges and are governed by federal law.

  • waton
    It is very telling what Jayden MacEwan, the lawyer

    jp 692: If Jaydon M. is a well born/bred-in Jw, such a wt directed question might not even occur to him as being justified. is he?

  • Richard Oliver
    Richard Oliver

    I have been looking at the lawsuits in the US that relate to something like this. Obviously, it is two different laws between the US and Canada. The US is pretty strict that a court cannot intervene in a religious decision, it is called ecclesiastical abstention, it was created by the Supreme Court in the 1970s. A civil court can hear cases that enter into the secular part of a religion such as property or injury to person, but they cannot delve into if a church has made the right decision in selecting a priest or it's internal structure of who is a member. Even int he Abrams v Watchtower decision the trial court judge wrote that even if the elders knew that the accusations were false that it is an internal matter and a secular court has no business dealing with it.

    Though there is one US court that broke from the pack a little bit. In Pennsylvania their Supreme Court in Bear v Reformed Mennonite Church the court did rule:

    "‘. . . (T)he Court has rejected challenges under the Free Exercise Clause to governmental regulation of certain overt acts prompted by religious beliefs or principles, for ‘even when the action is in accord with one's religious convictions, (it) is not totally free from legislative restrictions.’ Braunfeld v. Brown, 366 U.S. 599, 603, 81 S.Ct. 1144, 6 L.Ed.2d 563. The conduct or actions so regulated have invariably posed some substantial threat to public safety, peace or order.'"

    "the “shunning” practice of appellee church and the conduct of the individuals may be an excessive interference within areas of “paramount state concern,” i.e. the maintenance of marriage and family relationship, alienation of affection, and the tortious interference with a business relationship...."

    Though Mennonite shunning does go further. It prevents communication of anyone even within the home with the person that has been excommunicated.

  • FatFreek 2005
    FatFreek 2005
    Wall told the panel his behaviour stemmed from stress related to the expulsion of his 15-year-old daughter who he and his wife were required by the church to shun.
    The congregation had already kicked the teen out of the community and as a result, even though she was a dependent child living with her parents, the family was pressured to evict the girl from the home, leading to "much distress."
    At the meeting, Wall admitted he'd been drunk twice that he'd verbally abused his wife once.
    The judicial committee found Wall was "not sufficiently repentant" and he was disfellowshipped, a decision that then compelled his wife, children and other Jehovah's Witnesses to shun him.

    I thought I've been keeping up-to-date on Watchtower's shunning regulations but the above quotation leaves me puzzled.

    I can't fathom where parents would be required to shun a 15-year old child -- unless that child was no longer living inside the home.

    Nor where the family was pressured to evict a 15-year old child from the home.

    Nor where wife and children could be compelled to shun the husband and father -- unless they didn't live under the same roof.

  • jp1692
    FF: I can't fathom where parents would be required to shun a 15-year old child

    It's called "Jehovah-land."

    Fathom it.

  • Simon
    He was cheated by one of the elders

    That would take it into a whole other realm then - one where there is clear legal basis for action.

    In the same way that if an elder punched or was punched by someone, the "religion" aspect is irrelevant - things are now under clear secular law.

    In other words, did the JC follow correct legal procedure? Was Randy given his full legal rights during that process?
    I think it is quite clear that one essential right is always denied a person during those proceedings and that is the "right of representation".

    What right is this exactly? Is it the same imaginary right to legal representation that an employee has for some disciplinary meeting? i.e. no right at all unless there is specific provision in the employment contract (directly or through some unionized agreement).

    There are many places where people might imagine they have the right to bring a lawyer but really do not. You can get a lawyer involved afterwards if you think someone has contravened some law or violated some actual right but them having a meeting with you without you being allowed a lawyer isn't itself such a violation.

    the family was pressured to evict a 15-year old child from the home

    The WTS can make all manner of edicts and rules but they are a toothless-tiger in that they cannot actually enforce any of them. The only sanction they have is that they can revoke your membership - there is no WTS enforcement police (just a crap load of informants).

    But obviously that can bring with it some consequences - until you leave you often don't realize that leaving is an option and there may be family consequences to that choice too but (the baton of whether someone will voluntarily follow their edict to shun passes to the next person). It doesn't mean they can't and don't apply what pressure they can which can seem to be immense at the time we're going through it.

    Everyone has a choice though, it may be a difficult choice (it seems more difficult at the time) but you chose to reject your child or you reject the religion if that they turn it into. I'm sure many make a choice that they later regret because they don't fully comprehend the full reality of the situation but that doesn't mean the choice wasn't there.

    Again, I sympathize with anyone who'd gone through a very negative experience with the WTS (or any religion) but I don't believe this is the hill that they will be defeated on. While they may be morally culpable for many things, that isn't enough in court - pressuring someone to make bad life choices based on a flawed religious belief system is fundamentally protected under law because the law doesn't want to get involved with legislating those beliefs.

    They get involved if actual laws have been broken but as much as some people claim some right have been violated, I think if you look objectively you will find that those rights are imaginary.

    If we're not careful, our complaints turn into a Groucho-esque "I object to being removed from a club that I no longer wish to be a member of".

  • Simon
    I can't fathom where parents would be required to shun a 15-year old child

    I don't know the exact legalities in Canada, but in the UK you couldn't eject a minor child from your house without possible legal consequences and because of that, I don't think the WTS ever had the policy of "requiring" that to happen. The publications might say to limit association / discussion of spiritual matters with them but they don't make it an edict to evict them in order to avoid legal issues themselves.

    Of course some over-zealous uber-strict elder might decide that is what should happen but then it's up to the parents then to refuse and to escalate the situation to the level that someone would recognize the legal implications.

  • search

    There are elements in the news articles that are inaccurate - both ways.

    As a background, I have been baptized for over 30 years.

    The things that I have seen, heard, and experienced in this particular congregation stunned even a veteran JW such as myself.

    Yes, there is a major difference between US and Canadian views toward the issue at hand.

    The average person making comments about the trial court decision, as well as the appeal decision, seem to think that the judges simply pulled a decision out of their rear end. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Justice Wilson is sharp as a tack. Both parties had submitted their factums and books of authorities according to court timelines, as per normal. It was a 2.5 hour hearing.

    Likewise, appeal court had regular, full submissions, and a full hearing of some 2 hours.

    Highwood's lawyer made a number of, ah-hem, "misrepresentations," that stood uncorrected. The dissenting appeal court judge made particular reference to these inaccuracies, viewing them as facts in his dissenting remarks. These inaccuracies will not stand uncorrected before the Supreme Court.

    I will be posting online the factums and books of authorities in the future.

    Please be aware that his journey was not undertaken to "strike back" at the Society. The actions of certain elders were extremely over the top, harming many members of the congregation. These elders have tenure, so the branch turned a blind eye.

    I would estimate that less than 5% of the relevant information has been released to date. After Highwood files their Supreme Court filings, further information will be released. After the conclusion of the Supreme Court hearing, and the release of their decision, everything will be released.

    This has been a 3-year journey, and there is about 3 years to go.

    It is of note that the Governing Body directly approved, both the Alberta Appeal, and the Supreme Court Appeal. (Branch Manual - chapter 3, paragraph 27) "In the event of an adverse ruling or decision, the Branch Committee should immediately inform the Coordinators' Committee and specify the time limit for making an appeal. The Coordinators' Committee will want to know the opinion of the branch Legal Department about the advisability of appealing, the reasons for or against making an appeal, as well as the costs. The letter to the Coordinators' Committee should also state any possible negative effects on the legal status of the Kingdom work if the matter is not appealed or if the appeal is lost."

    Trivia: I was in the same congregation as John MacEwan (now on Canada's Branch Committee) back in the day. I had great admiration and respect for John. Jayden was still in short-pants, as one says.

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