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The Supreme Court of Canada Thursday heard arguments in a fight over a church’s “shunning” practice, and said it would release a ruling later, but the congregation involved and several other groups argued that the justices had no right to even take part in the fight.

The fight is between Randy Wall, a real estate agent, and the Highwood congregation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Calgary.

Wall was expelled from the congregation for getting drunk and not be properly repentant, court records said. He pursued a church appeals process, unsuccessfully, then went to court because he said the church’s “shunning,” that is, practice of not associating with him in any way, hurt his business.

He explained his two occasions of drunkenness related to “the previous expulsion by the congregation of his 15-year-old daughter.”

A lower court opinion explained, “Even though the daughter was a dependent child living at home, it was a mandatory church edict that the entire family shun aspects of their relationship with her. The respondent said the edicts of the church pressured the family to evict their daughter from the family home. This led to … much distress in the family.”

The “much distress” eventually resulted in his drunkenness, Wall said.

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Wall submitted to the court arguments that about half his client base, members of various Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations, then refused to conduct business with him. He alleged the “disfellowship had an economic impact on the respondent.”

During high court arguments Thursday, the congregation asked the justices to say that congregations are immune to such claims in the judicial system.

The lower courts had ruled that the courts could play a role in determining if, and when, such circumstances rise to the level of violating civil rights or injuring a “disfellowshipped” party.

The rulings from the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeals said Wall’s case was subject to secular court jurisdiction.

A multitude of religious and political organizations joined with the congregation in arguing that the Canada’s courts should not be involved.

The Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms said in a filing, “The wish or desire of one person to associate with an unwilling person (or an unwilling group) is not a legal right of any kind. For a court, or the government, to support such a ‘right’ violates the right of self-determination of the unwilling parties.”

Previous case law has confirmed the ability of religious or private voluntary groups to govern themselves and dictate who can be a member.

But previously rulings also reveal there is room for the court system to intervene when the question is one of property or civil rights.

The Association for Reformed Political Action, described the case as having “profound implications for the separation of church and state.”

Its position is that the court should keep hands off the argument.

“Secular judges have no authority and no expertise to review a church membership decision,” said a statement from Andre Schutten, a spokesman for the group. “Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere.”

John Sikkema, staff lawyer for ARPA, said, “The issue in this appeal is jurisdiction. A state actor, including a court, must never go beyond its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court must consider what kind of authority the courts can or cannot legitimately claim. We argue that the civil government and churches each have limited and distinct spheres of authority. This basic distinction between civil and spiritual jurisdiction is a source of freedom and religious pluralism and a guard against civic totalism.”

He continued, “Should the judiciary have the authority to decide who gets to become or remain a church member? Does the judiciary have the authority to decide who does or does not get to participate in the sacraments? Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere. Here we need separation of church and state.”

The Alberta Court of Appeal, however, suggested the fight was about more than ecclesiastical rules.

“Because Jehovah’s Witnesses shun disfellowshipped members, his wife, other children and other Jehovah’s Witnesses were compelled to shun him,” that lower court decision said. “The respondent asked the appeal committee to consider the mental and emotional distress he and his family were under as a result of his duaghter’s disfellowship.”

The church committee concluded he was “not sufficiently repentant.”

The ruling said “the only basis for establishing jurisdiction over a decision of the church is when the complaint involves property and civil rights,” and that is what Wall alleged.

“Accordingly, a court has jurisdiction to review the decision of a religious organization when a breach of the rules of natural justice is alleged.”



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Audio / Video: http://www.scc-csc.ca/case-dossier/info/webcastview-webdiffusionvue-eng.aspx?cas=37273&id=2017%2F2017-11-02--37273&date=2017-11-02

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7 hours ago, Nicole said:

Previous case law has confirmed the ability of religious or private voluntary groups to govern themselves and dictate who can be a member.

Normally. :):)

7 hours ago, Nicole said:

Wall was expelled from the congregation for getting drunk and not be properly repentant,...The church committee concluded he was “not sufficiently repentant.”

Perhaps my English is not sufficient, but here i see two separate issue. 1) expelled from congregation 2) not be properly repentant. My question is, For what reason Wall was disfellowshipped? Because of "for getting drunk" or because he was not been "properly repentant" ??? If he was df because of "been drunk" we can complicate issue on this with questions; Who can determine "drunkenness", by what parameter  public can see that one person is drunk? By his walking left/right? By alcometer and degrees of alcohol  in blood as in traffic law? Who and how and by what behaviour others can said, He is drunk? What is permitted level of alcohol in JW congregation to be able to say, this bro or sis drinking too much?  This questions are just for mediate a little more on issue. 

Another  thing is "not be properly repentant". This is very slip area. Even for "spiritually mature" elders :))))). I will not talking this time about how "Sheperd book" try to explain what is the "signs" of "truthful" repentance. It is complicated for elders to be judges of MOTIVES, and by entering in repentance issue, that is what in fact it is. Entering in "heart and mind and kidneys". Elders has no education, education of several levels, only some personal experience, to be able to properly look into  the "deepness of soul".

So by that i hold understanding how no one can be, and should not be disfellowshipped due to "quantity, types and the way of expression" of repentance.  

7 hours ago, Nicole said:

“Secular judges have no authority and no expertise to review a church membership decision,” said a statement from Andre Schutten, a spokesman for the group.

This is area for lawyers and philosophers and other sociologists and anthropologist. But i would cut this "knot" very easy for the purpose of this panel discussion. Romans 13:1 nwt said:  "Let every person* be in subjection to the superior authorities,+ for there is no authority except by God;+ the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.+ 2  Therefore, whoever opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will bring judgment against themselves. 3  For those rulers are an object of fear, not to the good deed, but to the bad.+ Do you want to be free of fear of the authority? Keep doing good,+ and you will have praise from it; 4  for it is God’s minister to you for your good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear, for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword. It is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath* against the one practicing what is bad.      

By this inspired words, as to my interpretation and understanding , secular authority can, if they want, going into the field of "church rules and regulations, customs and social mores of group" to determine is it acceptable or not.           

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8 hours ago, Gnosis Pithos said:

A concept

Interesting and very complex issue. It is hard to read legal matters from link you provide, but is good example how it is difficult to judge and to be Judge aka elders in judicial committees. This just shows how is better for elders to not be so sure, or proud and arrogant  in self righteous and abilities in handling on people's life,   in their judgements of acts, motives and emotions, and "repents signs" of accused person in congregation.

"...he believed honestly and reasonably that the..."

"...words "knowingly or wilfully", it is a valid defence for an accused to show that he acted upon the honest belief that the ..."

Put name Paul or someone like him in OT or NT records about some events. For the "sake of argument" can we tell how Paul is "guilty" for been approved, involving  stoning of Stephen or persecution of Jesus followers (it is reasonable to believe how many of them are wounded and killed) . Did he "believed honestly and reasonably" how his action is according to The Law? YES HE DID. Did he done that "knowingly or wilfully"? YES HE DID.

What will be, what should be verdict? Or Is it this case for judging at all? One man died. Many people suffered and died.  Who will take responsibility for so many ruined lives? Or should we can say, this was God's plan for Paul, because that is what he need to change his mind and become apostle? :))

By what sort of law, by whom,  Paul's deeds have to be processed. By what precedence he would be judged and set free or guilty for death of other people? Civil Law, Congregational Law, JHVH Law???



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If you not see before. Some interesting details about involved parties in  these case. Here is a link:


With WT Lawyers here i can see "supporters" for WT. :))))))

Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses (Vaughn Lee - Chairman and Elders James Scott Lang and Joe Gurney) and Highwood Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses is Appellant. 

Wall, Randy   is Respondent.

 Canadian Council of Christian Charities, Association for Reformed Political Action Canada, Canadian Constitution Foundation, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, Catholic Civil Rights League, Christian Legal Fellowship, World Sikh Organization of Canada, Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Canada, Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Canada, British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association are Interveners.

IT is interesting what colorful society we have here :)) Babylon the Great and Secular agencies are here to support WT JWorg. 

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