Today the Supreme Court in Canada is hearing a case that could have implications for the Exclusive Brethren. They have to decide whether a court can intervene when a church decides unfairly to excommunicate one of its members.
See https://ipolitics.ca/2017/11/02/church- ... decisions/
Here is the abstract of a paper on that very subject presented to an ISCA conference by a lawyer a few years ago. It describes the circumstances in which a court operating under Canadian law could, in the opinion of the speaker, overrule an assembly judgment or order compensation for the person withdrawn from.
Well, that was the opinion of a lawyer. I wait with interest to see if it is also the opinion of the Supreme Court.Excommunication: the consequences, and a member's right to a fair hearing,
Excommunication, shunning, or being “withdrawn from” are words used by closely knit religious groups; the practices that these words refer to are commonly designed to correct members’ actions or words when those actions or words (in the eyes of the administration) undermine or contradict the group’s norms or mores. The courts are slow to exercise jurisdiction over the question of membership in a voluntary association, especially a religious one. Jurisdiction has been exercised, however, where property or civil rights turn on the question of membership. Where such rights are affected, as they are very likely to be in an enmeshed group in which one’s livelihood and property rights are often intertwined with the religious group, the courts will intervene to ensure that the principles of natural justice are followed. The content of the principles of natural justice is flexible and depends on the circumstances in which the question arises. However, the most basic requirements are that of notice, opportunity to make representations, and an unbiased tribunal.
A member must be given notice of the cause for which he is to be expelled. It is insufficient merely to give notice that the conduct of a member is to be considered at a meeting. The member who is to be expelled must also be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him. The Exclusive Brethren Church in Canada has consistently failed to meet the standards required by Canadian law in withdrawing from its members and has caused considerable financial and other harms to members who wish to leave. These basic legal rights should be communicated both to the Exclusive Brethren and their members.
I can envisage other circumstances in which a court, not only in Canada, might overrule an Exclusive Brethren assembly judgment. For instance, withdrawing from someone could become a criminal offence if it amounts to psychological and emotional abuse; for example when it is used as a punishment to establish one person’s total control over another.
It could also be a criminal offence when practised the way JTJr taught; that is, parents being told that in some cases they should abandon their children. I have read reports of this being allegedly done in a way that was utterly wicked and probably criminal, but I don’t know the real names of the victims or the names of the perpetrators.
I have also witnessed several excommunications that were accompanied by other criminal acts, particularly defamation of the excommunicated person.
In drawing attention to this, I hope that the EB leadership will realise how far they have fallen below the standards expected by wider society, including our legislative systems and our courts of law.