Monday, May 21, 2007

In 2 Cases, Congregation Members Seek Court Ouster of Clergyman

Members of a mosque in Trenton, New Jersey filed suit last month, asking the court to oust the imam currently leading the mosque. The Trenton Times reported yesterday that founding members of the mosque allege that Imam Sabur Abdul Hakim has changed religious practices at the mosque. He and a small group of followers want the mosque to follow the rigid Salafi doctrine. Plaintiffs also say that Hakim appointed his son-in-law as "ameer" last August, without an election by the congregants. The suit seeks not only the removal of the Imam and the ameer, but also an accounting for mosque funds and a new election of trustees by congregation members.

Meanwhile, yesterday's Boston Globe reports on another legal fight to oust a clergyman. In Brocton, Massachusetts, a state Superior Court judge has issued a temporary injunction returning control of the First Baptist Church of Whitman to a group of congregants who are attempting to oust Rev. Michael Fernandez. The congregants are led by the former clerk of the church, Jean Porter. That group has voted in its own slate of church officers, restored the church's former bylaws and has voted to terminate Fernandez as pastor. They say that Fernandez never gained certification from the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts, as required by the church's bylaws. The current situation arose when Fernandez decided to bring his growing former congregation from Holbrook to the church in Whitman whose membership was declining. However, the two congregations essentially continued to function separately, though Fernandez took control of the building, a bank account and the church's website. Now Fernandez says he will move his followers to Hanover instead of fighting the legal battle to stay at the Whitman church.