Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Decision
Lawyer2974 at aol.com
Lawyer2974 at aol.com
Wed May 19 06:54:40 PDT 2004
Yesterday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided the United
Church of Christs' appeal arguing issues of church autonomy under the federal and
The Court has ordered the dismissal of all claims against all defendants for
the constitutional subject matter jurisdiction reasons I argued, with the
exception of defamation claims against defendant Robert Clark, a member of the
First Congregational Church of Haverhill, based upon his alleged statements to
Jean Roshon, a member of another UCC congregation, that Rev. Callahan was
engaged in an "inappropriate relationship" with a seminarian and that Rev.
Callahan engaged in bizarre behavior, threw a child's bicycle against a wall, and
breached another's confidence. This does not mean that the defamation claim
against Mr. Clark will win; it only means that the court has jurisdiction to hear
this claim, unlike all the other claims against Mr. Clark and the other
The case has significance for all faiths, especially those with a
Justice Spina, writing for a unanimous Massachusetts Supreme Court, stated in
"Today we hold that constitutional rights of religious freedom apply equally
to congregational and hierarchical churches...."
"Today we hold that congregational as well as hierarchical churches are
entitled to autonomy "over church disputes touching on matters of doctrine, canon
law, polity, discipline, and ministerial relationships ... To conclude
otherwise would violate fundamental precepts of the First Amendment and the
Massachusetts Constituion, including art. 46, section 1, of the Amendments, guaranteeing
free exercise of religion, and art. 11 of the Amendments, which provides:
"[A]ll religious sects and denominations, demeaning themselves peaceably, and as
good citizxens of the commonwealth, shall be equally under the protection of
the law; and no subordination of any one sect or denomination to another shall
ever be established by law." Any language suggesting the contrary in (our
decision in) Antioch Temple, Inc. v. Parekh ... is overruled."
"[W]e do not interpret (United States Supreme Court) cases to authorize
secular intrusion into matters of congregational church discipline."
"In deciding that our State constitutional protection extended to Judaism as
well as Christianity, this Court declared in Glaser v. Congregation Kehillath
Israel, 263 Mass. 435 (1928): "These great guarantees of religious liberty and
equality before the law of all religions are not confined to asherents of the
Christian religion or to societies and corporations organized for the
promotion of Christianity."..By the same toke, those "great guarantees" are not
confined to adherents of hierarchically structured churches."
The case is Callhan v. First Congregational Church of Haverhill, SJC-09190
May 18, 2004
Donald C. Clark, Jr.
2333 Waukegan Road
Bannockburn, Illinois 60015
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