Religious Organizations Archives

SCC Grants Leave in Jehovah's Witness Expulsion Case

On April 13, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada granted leave in Wall v. Highwood Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses (Judicial Committee). The hearing of the appeal in the Supreme Court has been tentatively set for November 2, 2017, meaning that a decision is likely in 2018. In reasons released in September 2016, the Alberta Court of Appeal delivered a split decision on whether the court had jurisdiction to hear an application for judicial review of the appeal committee of an unincorporated religious organization. The committee had upheld an internal process expelling the applicant, Randy Wall, from membership in the organization and shunning him. For our analysis of the Alberta Court of Appeal majority and minority reasons, see Two Views on the Justiciability of Decisions of Religious Organizations.

Distinction Between Temporal and Spiritual Bodies

In its 1940 decision in Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Church v. Ukrainian Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Mary the Protectress, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the important distinction between the temporal and spiritual aspects of religious organizations and ruled that, while courts can intervene in temporal matters, they cannot do so in spiritual matters.

Expulsion of a Member of a Religious Corporation

Lakeside Colony of Hutterian Brethern v. Hofer is the seminal 1992 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada on the expulsion of a member of a religious corporation. The most important enduring aspects of the decision are the extent to which courts will intervene in the internal affairs of religious corporations, accept evidence of an organization's custom and tradition, and require adherence to the rules of natural justice in the process of expelling members.

B.C. Court of Appeal Reverses Lower Court Decision Upholding on Election of Directors

In Bhandal v. Khalsa Diwan Society of Victoria (decided in 2014), the British Columbia Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the validity of an election of directors at a Sikh society, reversing the contrary decision of the lower court. The Court of Appeal interpreted the constitution and by-laws of the Society as a type of contract and found that the admission of members did not contravene the provisions of the constating documents.

Dismissal of Priest Ecclesiastical in Nature and Governed by Canon Law

In its 2011 decision in Hart v. Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of the Diocese of Kingston, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that the office of a pastor or priest is ecclesiastical in nature and, as such, governed by canon law. Under canon law, the church can remit a matter to the civil law courts but the church had never remitted a pastor's removal from office.

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