Friday, December 11, 2020

Court Refuses To Decide Whether LDS Church Is Christian

 In Ball v. Ball, (AZ App., Dec. 10, 2020), an Arizona appellate court was called upon to interpret a Parenting Plan that parents had agreed upon three years earlier as part of the dissolution of their marriage. The Plan provided:

Each parent may take the minor children to a church or place of worship of his or her choice during the time that the minor children is/are in his or her care.

Both parents agree that the minor children may be instructed in the Christian faith.

A year after the divorce, the father joined the LDS Church and sometimes took the children to meetings there. The mother objected claiming that the father's church is not Christian. The court held that the reference to "Christian" in the second clause does not limit the father's right to take the children to any place of worship, Christian or not.

The court went on to hold that the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine would bar it from deciding whether the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is part of the Christian faith, saying in part:

That very question has long been a matter of theological debate in the United States. A secular court must avoid ruling on such issues to prevent the appearance that government favors one religious view over another.