Home Cases Highwood Congregation v. Randy Wall (freedom of association and separation of church and state)

Highwood Congregation v. Randy Wall (freedom of association and separation of church and state)

By | on Apr 13 2017

From Cases, Ongoing Cases

Should courts have broad power to regulate the membership of private groups? The Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave to hear a case that will have profound implications for all private civil society organizations, and particularly religious congregations. CCF Executive Director Howard Anglin, wrote about this case in the Globe & Mail. The Canadian Constitution Foundation is now seeking to intervene in this case to help defend an important principle and freedom.

The plaintiff was expelled – “disfellowshipped” – from Calgary’s Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in April, 2014, for alleged drunkenness, verbal abuse of his wife and insufficient repentance. Having exhausted appeals within the church, the plaintiff sought relief from the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, claiming that his disfellowshipping was not consistent with the principles of fundamental justice. The church responded that Canadian courts have no jurisdiction to second-guess the membership decisions of a private religious body.

The narrow question before the court will be whether courts have jurisdiction to review the membership decisions of religious congregations. More broadly, the court will have to consider to what extent the state can intervene in the internal processes of private organizations. The Canadian Constitution Foundation believes the constitutionally guaranteed freedom to associate must include the freedom not to associate, and that right cannot be policed by the courts without an unprecedented intrusion on the privacy and autonomy of Canadians. Where no related legal rights are involved, the internal membership and disciplinary decisions of private bodies are no business of the state.


Donate to this case now to support the freedom of association and the separation of church and state.

Read the full release from April 13, 2017 here.

  • CCF Launch: April 2017
  • Legal Jurisdiction: Supreme Court of Canada
  • Next Key Date: TBD


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