Jones v. Wolf: Supreme Court Vacates Decision on Church Property

Jones v. Wolf: Supreme Court Vacates Decision on Church Property

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Argued: Jones v. Wolf - The Supreme Court votes 5-4 to vacate a lower court's decision that a minority faction had control of a church because the lower court failed to use the "neutral principles of law" test properly.

Justice Harry Blackmun writes in the majority opinion:

"The state has an obvious and legitimate interest in the peaceful resolution of property disputes, and in providing a civil forum where the ownership of church property can be determined conclusively. The primary advantages of the neutral principles approach are that it is completely secular in operation, and yet flexible enough to accommodate all forms of religious organization and polity. ...

It thereby promises to free civil courts completely from entanglement in questions of religious doctrine...

This is not to say that the application of the neutral principles approach is wholly free of difficulty. The neutral principles method... requires a civil court to examine certain religious documents, such as a church constitution...

On balance, however, the promise of non-entanglement and neutrality inherent in the neutral principles approach more than compensates for what will be occasional problems in application."

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