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The Royal Courts of Justice building, which houses the High Court and the Court of Appeal of England and Wales

MAY 12, 2020

England Upholds Rights Regarding Religious Affiliation

England Upholds Rights Regarding Religious Affiliation

On March 17, 2020, the Court of Appeal of England and Wales dismissed an application to appeal a decision of the High Court (trial court) upholding our right to follow the Bible’s directives regarding disfellowshipping.

In a comprehensive ruling, the High Court had determined that it was not unlawful or defamatory for a congregation to announce that a person is no longer one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The trial court judge, Richard Spearman, Q.C., stated in his judgment: “It is to be expected that a religious body which is guided by and which seeks to apply Scriptural principles will have the power to procure that in an appropriate case a sinner can be expelled. Among other things, this is sensible, if not essential, because someone who is unable or unwilling to abide by Scriptural principles not only does not properly belong as a member of such a body but also, unless removed, may have an undesirable influence on the faithful.”

The claimant filed an application to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the trial court’s decision. The Court of Appeal rejected that application, calling it “entirely without merit,” and noting that the trial court’s decision was “plainly right” and that the “power of expulsion was plainly necessary within a spiritual organization.”

Commenting on the decision, Shane Brady, a lawyer for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said: “This decision is consistent with a long line of judgments of the English courts, the European Court of Human Rights, and appellate courts in Canada, Continental Europe, and the United States. All of these decisions confirm Jehovah’s Witnesses’ right to decide issues of religious affiliation.”

We are glad that the Court recognized our right to follow the Scriptures in protecting the spiritual and moral welfare of our congregations.—1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 John 9-11.