Dla prawa do wystąpienia z kościołów w kontekście wolności religijnej kluczowa jest „teoria zgody„. Poniżej argumenty za jej przyjęciem przedstawione przez amerykańskiego prawnika. Według niego jest to nie uszczuplenie lecz wzmocnienie wolności kościołów ponieważ to na występującym ciąży obowiązek wykazania, że wycofał swoją zgodę na podleganie jurysdykcji kościoła. Pokazuje także, że prawo do wystąpienia z kościoła w prawie amerykańskim miało początek w sporach o nieruchomości. Następnie zostało rozszerzone na prawo do prywatności i dobrego imienia a przełomem była sprawa Marion Guinn. Jest to tak mistrzowski cios w pretensje kościołów do własnych zasad ekskomunikowania, że najważniejsze fragmenty (bez odnośników) podaję poniżej. Cała reszta jest w załączonym artykule.

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Richard Cupp, Religious Torts: Applying the Consent Doctrine as Definitional Balancing, UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 19, 1986

Membership and Religious Motivation

Before shifting the burden of proving lack of consent, courts should require the religious defendant to show that the plaintiff was a member of the church, and that the tort was religiously motivated. Unless the plaintiff is a church member – or was a member when the tort occurred – no justification for presuming voluntariness arises. And unless the tort is religiously motivated, constitutional protection is unwarranted.

The standard should not apply to nonmembers unless their cause of action is derivative. Nonmember parents, for example, probably do not consent to the alienation of their child’s affection by a religious group. However, the standard might bar parents’ recovery in a case like Nally v. Grace Community Church, if the son validly consented to his pastors’ counseling practices. There the parents sued for the intentional infliction of emotional distress on their decedent son. They should not recover for their son’s injuries if his membership implied consent to the injurious conduct.

The consent-based standard also should not apply to tortious acts committed by a religious group after a member withdraws from the group. Courts routinely hold that members of religious groups may terminate their membership. Termination is the logical point at which individuals withdraw consent to religious activity.

However, equivocal membership should not, absent some consent-negating factor, excuse a plaintiff from meeting the proposed standard. A football player cannot threaten legal action if she is tackled, and at the same time refuse to quit playing football. Not recognizing the difference between equivocal and wholehearted membership may lead to

harsh results, particularly in a society in which religious membership is often halfhearted or traditional. But large, traditional churches that tolerate equivocal membership arguably are less likely to engage in tortuous religious conduct than churches which demand total commitment from their members. More importantly, courts have always assumed that religious membership is an affirmative act of self-determination.


The strength of the proposed standard is that it increases protection for the religion clauses without unfairly burdening deserving plaintiffs. Presuming consent by church members merely acknowledges that religious membership is an affirmative decision, a choice that must, because of its consensual nature and the respect demanded by the Constitution, carry important implications. By impressing potential converts with the significance of religious membership, the standard may lead to more thoughtful choices and fewer tragic incidences of religious disillusionment and injury. Even if it does not, providing financial recovery to protect individuals who wilfully fail to protect themselves is hardly a compelling government interest „of the highest order” as is required to impinge on religious freedom. The Bible requires believers to carefully „count the cost” of discipleship. This admonition makes sense not only for the religious, but for the caretakers of the Constitution as well.

Richard L. Cupp, Jr.

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