A MASSACHUSETTS judge has rejected a motion for summary judgment
sought by former and present officers of the Christian Science
Church in a dispute over church government.
The ruling moves the case, a civil suit filed against church
officials, one step closer to trial.
"I rule that the plaintiffs have valid claims for relief, that
they have standing to bring them, and that neither the state or the
federal Constitution is an impediment to the limited remedies
sought by these plaintiffs," wrote Suffolk Superior Court Judge
Vieri Volterra. The decision dated Aug. 30 was released Friday.
Before the case goes to trial, an appeal of Judge Volterra's
decision is likely, says Theodore Dinsmoor, attorney for the
defendants. "The decision is somewhat perfunctory and does not
address the evidence defendants submitted to the court. I think
that if this evidence is reviewed at the appellate level, there is
a high probability the decision will be reversed."
Allan van Gestel, attorney for the plaintiffs, did not respond
over the holiday weekend to phone messages seeking comment on the
Plaintiffs Elizabeth Weaver of Glen Arbor, Mich., and Roy Varner
of Houston, Texas, allege that present and former officers of The
Mother Church and the Christian Science Publishing Society in
Boston wrongfully spent hundreds of millions of dollars on media
ventures between 1988 and 1992. They allege that these expenditures
violated provisions of the Manual of The Mother Church and two
deeds of trust, all written by Mary Baker Eddy, the church's
founder. The plaintiffs want the court to enforce their
interpretation of the bylaws. They also seek a detailed accounting
of church expenditures from 1988 to the present.
The defendants, including several present and former members of
the Christian Science Board of Directors, argue the plaintiffs lack
standing to sue. The defendants contend that Varner and Weaver are
unable to show that as church members they have been deprived of
any right to vote or of any personal, legal interest in the
management, funds, or operation of the church that would entitle
them to a remedy under the law.
Judge Volterra rejected the defendants' argument on standing.
"The plaintiffs are members of The Mother Church in a special and
unique manner separate and distinct from any member of the public.
Indeed, the plaintiffs have been elected to be members of The
Mother Church, and they stand as beneficiaries of the property of
The Mother Church as established by the wills and trusts of Mrs.
Eddy," the judge wrote.
Church officials had also argued for summary judgment on the
grounds that the First Amendment to the US Constitution deprives
the court of jurisdiction to hear the case. …