Rules of the Ecclesiastical Court of Justice

causa ecclesiae publicus aqui paratur; et summa est ratio quae pro religione facit The cause of the Church is equal to public cause, and paramount is the reason which makes for religion


The Rules of this church tribunal mentioned here are inspired by the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Bible consisting of the Old Testament and the New Testament. In many areas of these Rules, we prayerfully expect to invoke the wisdom of Solomon in 1 Kings 3:16 when two/women claimed possession of the same child. The Word of God teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun, therefore, everything that has happened, that which is happening, and all that will happen has a scriptural reference point. Prayerfully, this will render the decision-making process in this tribunal, such as ours, a meaningful and worthy effort to dispense justice as God would expect it from us in the face of great adversity and travails that America is facing today with issues relating to same sex marriage, abortion, church-state relations, civil rights, and other equally important, yet difficult to manage social, economic, political and cultural rights juxtaposed with immunities, privileges, and powers.

These Rules are designed to give clarity to justice and law and to discover the truth as far as facts and issues relating to the case at hand.

Rule 1

  1. A Complainant or Aggrieved Party, hereafter "CAP", who is a member of any church or religious organization within the State of Washington, may bring an action before the Ecclesiastical Court of Justice, hereafter "ECJ", by conforming to the Form ECJ 1 as it appears hereunder.

  2. The CAP shall notify the ECJ with a filing fee of $500.00 and notify the party he or she is complaining against, hereafter "PCA", by certified mail, if the PCA is a member of any church or religious organization within the State of Washington.

  3. Proof of service shall be required. Personal service by process servers and others shall not be mandatory.

  4. Form ECJ 1
(sample format)

My name is ___________________________________

My address is _________________________________

I am employed as a ______________________________

My employer’s name is___________________________

  1. Briefly describe the circumstances surrounding the reason why you have sought ECJ’s assistance in resolving this matter. Use a separate sheet of paper.

  2. What relief are you seeking: (e.g. I want the other party to return my money; I want the other party to pay for the damage to my property; I want the other party to stop harassing me, etc.)

  3. The CAP may amend his/her claim or complaint as and when new evidence or proof is occasioned, and request for a continuance or change of date of hearing. The PCA must be so informed at the same time as the ECJ is informed of such amended claim or complaint.

  4. Residents of other states may apply to ECJ to adjudicate disputes or controversies.

Rule 2

  1. The PCA shall respond to the Form ECJ 1 within fourteen days and send a copy of the response to the CAP.

  2. The ECJ shall appoint a date for the hearing. The PCA and the CAP shall be informed accordingly. The CAP and the PCA may bring any and all relevant documents and witnesses to support their argument at the hearing.

  3. Names, addresses and telephone numbers of the witnesses shall be furnished to the ECJ.

  4. The witnesses shall write a brief statement to the ECJ outlining the extent of their knowledge of the dispute that is to be adjudicated prior to the date of hearing.

Rule 3

  1. Lawyers may represent the parties provided they are familiar with the Holy Bible and secular law.

  2. Secular law refers to those state and federal statutes that may affect religion, religious beliefs and religious freedom. Statutes such as:
    1. the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA) — to protect free exercise of religion. A congressional prize offered to religious freedom after Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 884 (1990) took that gift away.

    2. the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) — to protect religious liberty;

    3. RCW 84.36.020 (Real and property tax exemption for all lands, buildings and personal property required for the administration of churches);

    4. Title 26, USC, Section 508(c)(1)(A) mandatory exceptions from taxation of churches, their integrated auxiliar ies, and conventions or associations of churches;

    5. Title 26 USC, Section 6033 relating to exceptions from filing tax returns of churches, their integrated auxiliaries, and conventions or associations of churches;

    6. RCW 24.12 010 — corporations sole — church and religious organizations are legally able to establish trusts
  1. At the hearing, the CAP shall present his or her case first. The CAP shall adhere to stating the facts only. No opinions, hearsay statements or speculations shall be encouraged. You may take as long as you like to present your case provided you state the facts only. The facts you state shall be strictly those that you have mentioned in Form ECJ 1. In the event you change your facts, an amended Form ECJ 1 shall be required and the case postponed for a further hearing for the PCA to respond.

  2. The PCA shall thereafter present his or her case by stating the facts only. No opinions, hearsay statements or speculations shall be encouraged.

  3. The Court may question witnesses presented by both parties.

Rule 4

There shall be three judges comprising the ecclesiastical court.

Rule 5

The decisions of the Ecclesiastical Court shall be binding upon secular courts, and such decisions or judgments will be made available to secular courts if the PCA is not a church member, or one who does not wish to attend the hearing at the ECJ because of his/her religious beliefs and convictions. Such judgment shall not be vacated, overruled or voided by the secular courts under the principles enunciated in, but not limited to, the following cases. Judges of church tribunals, lawyers, laypersons, interested parties, and litigants are encouraged to study these cases and become familiar with the ebb and flow of the secular courts when it had to come face-to-face with momentous decisions affecting church-state issues and relations, despite the fact, and truism, that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. Fortunately, we are told by legal scholars that one of the two seminal documents consulted and cited by the United States Supreme Court Justices in cases and controversies affecting religion is James Madison's "A Memorial and Remonstrance".

People v. Phillips (N.Y. Ct. of General Sessions 1813, reprinted in Western L.J. 109 (1843) and 1 Cath. Law. 199 (1955): First Amendment Free Exercise Clause prevents grand jury subpoena from forcing Catholic priest to divulge professional confidence.

Watson v. Jones, 80 U.S. (13 Wall.) 67 (1871): Courts may not interfere in matters of church doctrine, discipline, or polity.The Supreme Court stated that "all who unite themselves to a religious body do so with an implied consent to its government, and are bound to submit to it. But it would be a vain consent and would lead to the total subversion of such religious bodies, if any one aggrieved by one of their decisions could appeal to the secular courts and have them reversed. It is of the essence of these religious unions, and of their right to establish tribunals for the decision of questions arising among themselves, that those decisions should be binding in all cases of ecclesiastical cognizance, subject only to such appeals as the organism provides for." (Id. At 729)

Rector of the Holy Trinity Church v. United States, 143 U.S. 457 (1892): Refusing to apply to churches a federal statute forbidding employment contracts with aliens to work in the United States.

Bradfield v. Roberts, 175 U.S. 291 (1899): Contract was valid between the commissioners of the District of Columbia and the directors of Catholic hospital, over contention that the agreement would result in an appropriation by Congress of money to a religious society, thereby violating the constitutional provision which forbids Congress from passing any law respecting an establishment of religion.

Ponce v. Roman Catholic Apostolic Church, 210 U.S. 296 (1908): The fact that the municipality may have furnished some of the funds for building or repairing the churches cannot affect the title of the Roman Catholic Church, to whom such funds were thus irrevocably donated, and by whom these temples were erected and dedicated to religious uses.

Quick Bear v. Leupp, 210 U.S. 50 (1908): We cannot concede the proposition that Indians cannot be allowed to use their own money to educate their children in the schools of their own choice because the government is necessarily undenominational, as it cannot make any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

St. Benedict Order v. Steinhauser , 234 U.S. 640 (1914): In the present case, there was no infringement of Father Wirth's liberty or right to property. He did not withdraw from the Order. He had agreed, by accepting membership under the complainant's constitution, that his individual earnings and acquisitions, like those of other members, should go into the common fund, and, except as required for the maintenance of the members, should be used in carrying out the charitable objects of the Order.

Arver v. United States, 245 U.S. 366 (1918): Military Service Act, which exempted from subjection to the draft regular or duly ordained ministers of religion and theological students as well as other members of religious sects as enumerated whose tenets excluded the moral right to engage in war, was constitutional.

Shepard v. Barkley, 247 U.S. 1 (aff’d mem) (1918): Presbyterian Church merger controlled by decision in Watson v. Jones.

Pierce v. Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus & Mary, 268 U.S. 510 (1925): Invalidating state law requiring Christians’ attendance at public schools.

Gonzalez v. Roman Catholic Archbishop, 280 U.S. 1 (1929): Supreme Court declined to interfere in ecclesiastical dispute relating to a refusal by archbishop to appoint petitioner in ecclesiastical office. Justice Brandeis formulated a rule that "in the absence of fraud, collusion, or arbitrariness, the decisions of of the proper church tribunals on matters purely ecclesiastical, although affecting civil rights, are accepted in litigation before the secular courts as conclusive, because the parties in interest made them so by contract or otherwise". Id. At 16.

Cantwel v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296 (1940): State may not unduly suppress communication of religious views under guise of conserving public peace, or deciding what is a legitimate "religion" for solicitation purposes; Free Exercise Clause applied to state and local governments through the 14th Amendment.

Murdock v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1943): 5-4 decision by US Supreme Court ruling that town’s ordinance requiring a license to sell religious materials was unconstitutional. This case involved an occupational tax.

Follett v. Town of McCormick (1944): Same decision as Murdock above.

United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944): Truth of religious belief may not be subjected to scrutiny by a jury, but sincerity may.

Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947): Upheld law providing reimbursement to parents for cost of transporting children to religious schools; Establishment Clause applied to state and local governments through the 14th Amendment.

McCollum v. Board of Education, 333 U.S. 203 (1948): Invalidating programs allowing clerics to hold religion classes in public schools during school hours (appears to be a vindictive of Everson above).

Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, 344 U.S. 94 (1952): state undertaking to transfer control of church from central governing hierarchy to local governing authorities is unconstitutional.

Zorach v. Clauson, 343 U.S. 306 (1952): Upheld program allowing students to attend religion classes off public school grounds.

Reasor-Hill Corporation v. Harrison, 220 Ark.521. 248 SW2d. 994 (1952): Justice McFaddin quoted from Proverbs 22:28 "remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set" when he pronounced that "in matters affecting real property, particularly, we should leave undisturbed the ancient landmarks".

Kreshik v. St. Nicholas Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church of North America, 363 U.S. 190 (1960): First Amendment prevents judiciary, as well as Legislature, from interfering in ecclesiastical governance.

Torcaso v. Watkins, 367 U.S. 488 (1961): Declaration of belief in existence of God as requirement for public office unconstitutional. (Supreme Court begins to find comfort in denying religious rights)

Engel v. Vitale, 370 U.S. 421 (1962): Disallowed state program of daily classroom prayer.

School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203 (1963): Disallowed classroom and devotional Bible recitation (aping Engel above, understandably).

Sherbet v. Verner, 374 U.S.398 (1963): Refusal to take a job due to religious beliefs does not disqualify claimant for unemployment benefits. The state’s "compelling interest" standard first introduced in this case.

Board of Education v. Allen, 392 U.S. 236 (1968): Upheld state law requiring secular textbooks be provided to private and public schools.

Presbyterian Church in the United States v. Mary Elizabeth Blue Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church, 393 U.S. 440 (1969): First Amendment prohibits civil court from awarding church property on the basis of interpretation of church doctrine.

Walz v. Tax Commissioner, 397 U.S. 664 (1970): Upheld property tax exemption for churches.

Maryland & Virginia Eldership of Churches of God v. Church of God: Civil courts may resolve church property dispute as long as it does not involve inquiry into church doctrine.

Sharpsburg, 396 U.S. 367(1970): civil courts may resolve church property dispute as long as it does not involve inquiry into church doctrine.

Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971): 3-prong test applied to matters affecting religion: (a) the statute must have a secular purpose, (b) the statute’s primary effect must not be to either advance or inhibit religion, (c) the statute or government action must not foster "an excessive entanglement with religion".

Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972): State law requiring all children to attend school until the age of 16, regardless of religious belief, disallowed.

Stone v. Graham, 449 U.S. 39 (per curiam) (1980): Disallowed state law requiring posting of Ten Commandments in public classrooms.

Thomas v. Review Board, 450 U.S. 707 (1981): Denial of unemployment benefits because religious belief forbade production of armaments violated First Amendment.

Widmar v. Vincent, 454 U.S. 263 (1981): Disallowed restrictions on religious activities in state university grounds.

Rusk v. Espinosa, 456 U.S. 951 (summarily aff’d.)(1982): striking down ordinance that required officials to distinguish between spiritual and temporal religious purposes.

EEOC v. Southwestern Baptists Theological Seminary, 651 F. 2d 277 (5th Cir. (1981): First Amendment bars EEOC from enforcing EEO-6 reporting requirement to the extent it related to seminary’s faculty and certain administrative personnel.

Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 388 (1983): Upheld state practice of hiring chaplain and offering prayers in the legislature.

Mueller v. Allen, 463 U.S. 388 (1983): Upheld tax deduction by religious school parents of education-related expenses (vindication for Walz above?)

Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668 (1984): Upheld government practice of displaying nativity scene as part of holiday display.

Quaring v. Peterson, 728 F. 2d 1121 (8th Cir. 1984), affirmed in Jensen v. Quaring, 472 U.S. 478, 86 L.Ed. 2d 383, 105 S. Ct. 3492 (1985): Photograph requirement for driver’s license in Nebraska’s struck down as unconstitutionally burdening the free exercise of Quaring’s sincerely held religious beliefs. She argued that her photograph would violate the 2nd Commandment, which prohibits the making of graven images. The US Supreme Court was split 4-4 with Justice Powell recusing himself.

Rayburn v. Gen. Conf. Of Seventh Day Adventists, 772 F.2d 1164 (4th. Cir.) cert.denied 478 U.S. 1020 (1986): First Amendment bars sexual and racial discrimination claims brought by applicant for pastoral care position.

Natal v. Christian and Missionary Alliance, 878 F.2d 1575 (1st. Cir.)(1989): First Amendment bars ordained minister claims for breach of contract, defamation, and emotional distress.

Texas Monthly, Inc. v. Bullock, 489 U.S. 1 (1989): Exempting a religious organization from paying the sales tax of a state violated the Establishment Clause and endorsed religion while discriminating against non-religious organizations. Compare Murdock and Follett above involving an occupational tax.

County of Allegheny v. ACLU, 492 U.S. 573 (1989):Nativity scene inside a courthouse violated the Establishment Clause and endorsed religion.

Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 884 (1990):Two Native American Church members who were fired for using peyote — a religious sacrament, and also a hallucinogenic — were refused unemployment benefits. Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1993 to overrule this decision.

Bell v. Presbyterian Church USA, No. 96-1297 (4th Cir. 10/01/1997): A civil court has no jurisdiction over ecclesiastical decisions by churches involving, for example, termination of employment of a minister or pastor, or "as to how they are going to expend their funds"

Schmoll v. Chapman University, 70 Cal. App. 4th 1434 (1999): Courts have developed a general rule barring judicial review of employment disputes between religious organizations and their clergy employees (the ministerial exception rule). Same reason stated in earlier cases; McClure v. Salvation Army (5th Cir. 1972) 460 F.2d 553; Rayburn v. General Conference of 7th Day Adventists, 772 F. 2d 1164, 1168 (1985); Higgins v. Maher, 210 Cal. App. 3d 1168 (1989) - In Higgins, the court went to say that "one who enters the clergy forfeits the protection of the civil authorities in terms of job rights".

Warren v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 282 F.3d 1119, 9th Cir.(2002): Minister’s housing allowance, as allowed under IRC 170(2), may exceed the fair market rental value of the house being supplied for dwelling. However, Congress swiftly passed the Clergy Housing Allowance Clarification Act, Public Law No. 107-181, 116 Stat. 583, which prevents the judiciary from reviewing the constitutionality of IRC 170(2). The Act made clear that the ministerial housing allowance should not exceed the fair market rental value. (One judicial win for religion, one legislative win for the government!)

An article from the Florida Bar Journel - A Rock Solid Foundation for the Wall of Separation Between Church and State in Employment Decisions Concerning Clergy - by Ronald P. Ponzoli, Jr. (full article here)

Rule 6

In the event a CAP seeks the jurisdiction of the church, he or she will be discouraged by the church to go to the government for another relief. It is the belief and conviction of this tribunal that many Christians and believers today are confused about which jurisdiction to invoke in good times and in trying times.

  1. Example: A man marries a woman under church law, thereafter goes to the state to apply for a marriage license. The problem that the church faces is the no-fault divorce system that the government practices. Any married person can petition any secular court for a divorce or a separation. The church, on the other hand, will attempt at saving the marriage through counseling and reconciliation efforts.

  2. Example: A man or woman marry commit a crime knowingly or unknowingly. If they happen to be Christians and believers they are required to inform the police that they wish the jurisdiction of the church. See People v. Phillips above.

  3. Example: The taking of photographs and administering oaths violate biblical principles. Christians and believers may inform the authorities that their sincerely held religious beliefs are being affected. See Quaring above regarding photographs for driver licenses.

  4. Example: A Christian purchases real estate and wishes to use it for Bible study purposes and for witnessing to others. He or she may apply for a parsonage exemption under RCW 84.36.020

Rule 7

Any person wishing to be married in a religious organization may not request the state for a marriage license as this would create a double jurisdictional conflict when it comes to enforcing religious rights.

Rule 8

This Court will grant the courtesy required towards secular courts in advancing opinions, dispatching documents, and otherwise cooperating in seeking solutions and finding justice for litigants.


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