Thursday, February 16, 2012

Challenge To Excommunication Dismissed Under Church Autonomy Doctrine

In Cassell v. Christian Science Board of Directors, 2012 Mass. App. Unpub. LEXIS 173 (MA App., Feb. 15, 2012), the Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed the trial court's application of the church autonomy doctrine and dismissed a challenge by plaintiff to her excommunication from the Christian Science church. Plaintiff was a member of a "restoration group" that challenged modernization efforts by the board. The court said it was clear that "the First Amendment forbids courts from interfering with a church's internal governance or with the excommunication of its members." The court held that plaintiff's appeal was frivolous and awarded attorneys' fees to defendant.