Wall Tag

14 Feb 2020 A breach in Wall:  New court ruling casts shadow on church independence

by John Sikkema In 2018, we told you about a Supreme Court case called Wall v Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In that case, Mr. Wall took a Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregation to court for “disfellowshipping” him. Mr. Wall succeeded in the lower courts, but lost his case at the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). The SCC decided unanimously that civil judges have no business reviewing a religious body’s decision to expel a member where no legal right is at stake. That case raised the fundamental issue of churches’ freedom to govern themselves,...

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01 Jun 2018 Supreme Court rules unanimously in church discipline case

Can the decision of a church or religious body to expel a member be appealed to a civil court? Last week, the Supreme Court of Canada decided unanimously that the answer to that question is no. The lower court judge, Justice Wilson, and a majority at the Alberta Court of Appeal, had answered this question in the affirmative. The SCC overturned the decisions of the lower courts for three reasons. First, the Court ruled that judges can only review decisions made by state actors – those that have been granted powers by the...

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07 Nov 2017 LN Feature: The Supreme Court as Reformed Synod?

ARPA Canada lawyer, John Sikkema ARPA lawyer John Sikkema appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada last week, making arguments as an intervener in the so-called "Wall" case. That's the one where the Supreme Court has been asked whether secular courts have authority to intervene in matters of ecclesiastical discipline. The arguments are being heard in the context of the "disfellowshipping" of a member of a Jehovah's Witness congregation in Calgary. ARPA had been accepted as an intervener in the case, and filed written arguments earlier this fall. The issue was highlighted during the...

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10 Oct 2017 Wall Case

ARPA Canada lawyer, John Sikkema ARPA lawyer John Sikkema has delivered the final paperwork to the Supreme Court of Canada in the "Wall Case". That's the case involving a Jehovah's Witness congregant who wants the courts to overturn his dis-fellowshipping - essentially his excommunication - from a JW congregation near Edmonton. Sikkema says the complainant is arguing that being a member in a church is essentially “contractual”, and that courts are empowered to enforce contracts. Mr. Wall, Sikkema says, “expected (that) in return for participating in church (he would be) treated...

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05 Sep 2017 Supreme Court Appearances

ARPA's Director of Law and Policy, André Schutten ARPA has two appearances coming before the Supreme Court of Canada between now and the end of the year. Late last month, we were granted formal "intervenor status" in what is known as the "Wall case". This case involves a Jehovah's Witness congregation in Alberta that dis-fellowshipped - essentially excommunicated - one of its members. ARPA's Director of Law and Policy, André Schutten, says the case sets boundaries around the authority of the state when it comes to church matters. André says the...

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29 Aug 2017 ARPA at the Supreme Court: Wall v Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregation

ARPA Canada will intervene in Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses et al v Randy Wall at the Supreme Court of Canada on November 2. UPDATE (Oct 4/17): see our written submissions to the Supreme Court here and our oral arguments here . Background of the Case Randy Wall was expelled – or disfellowshipped – from the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2014. The expulsion originated out of two instances of drunkenness and verbal abuse of his wife after which he failed to demonstrate repentance. As a result, Wall experienced a loss of...

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23 May 2017 LN Feature: Confusing the roles of Church and State

ARPA Canada lawyer, John Sikkema The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear a case that has profound implications for the legal relationship between Church and State. It involves church discipline and centres on the question of whether someone who has been disciplined by a church can appeal that discipline in the secular court system. ARPA is looking at filing for intervenor status in this case and lawyer John Sikkema is busy this week studying what it would take to file that application. LN: So give me some background on this case. I...

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