Church members claim they were expelled contrary to the bylaws that required arbitration. Dissident members formed a group and asked a Florida court to compel arbitration in accordance with church bylaws.
The fight is not over between a group of concerned members of First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, and church leadership. A Florida court will consider if it should order arbitration between the church and a group of concerned members.
A hearing in that case was held April 6. The first answer from the court was “No.” The judge appeared to be concerned about a court intrusion into a religious matter. However, the next day, the judge in the case ordered the church to respond to a motion for rehearing.
The response from the church will be interesting in part because lawyers for the church allegedly misled the court about a key piece of evidence.
According to the court filing by lawyers representing the conservative church members, “Prior to that correspondence, the ICC sent a letter to Respondent, specifically indicating in the fourth paragraph: ‘[I]f the parties are unable to agree but still desire for the ICC to assist them in an arbitration proceeding . . . , then ICC will need: 1) an order from the court compelling both the Church and CMG to arbitration with the ICC . . . .’ (Emphasis added.) The letter is addressed to Respondents’ counsel, who, at this morning’s hearing, emphatically represented to the Court that there was no such document. As shown by both the letter and the e-mail, that statement was false. A complete copy of the letter sent to Respondents’ counsel is attached to this Motion as Exhibit ‘B.’”
Yikes. Let’s highlight that key claim: “The letter is addressed to Respondents’ counsel, who, at this morning’s hearing, emphatically represented to the Court that there was no such document. As shown by both the letter and the e-mail, that statement was false.”
Apparently, the judge believed such a statement from the arbitration group important to the case.
According to the church member’s filing, “Earlier today, this Court dismissed Petitioner’s Amended Petition with prejudice. During the hearing, the Court specifically asked whether there was anything in writing from the Institute for Christian Conciliation (‘ICC’) regarding a need for a Court Order to commence arbitration in the absence of an agreement to arbitrate between the parties. Not anticipating that the Court would find the existence of such a document important, Petitioner’s counsel was unable to inform the Court whether such a document existed. After the hearing, however, Petitioner’s counsel learned that there is such a writing—in fact, two such writings.”
The petition for rehearing goes on to explain the reasons for why the court should require arbitration—including citing the church bylaws on the matter.
According to the filing, “And, to be clear, Petitioner is not seeking to litigate his dispute in this Court. To interpret the Bylaws as disallowing a Motion to Compel Arbitration when a party refuses to participate in the dispute resolution procedures contained in the Bylaws would render the Bylaws utterly meaningless, as it would permit a party to willfully violate the Bylaws and then escape liability simply by refusing to arbitrate. That is not what the parties contemplated when promulgating and adopting the Bylaws. To the contrary, as evidenced by Section 3.6’s provision that ‘[j]udgment upon an arbitration decision may be entered in an appropriate court having jurisdiction under the Laws of the State of Florida,’ the parties contemplated the Court’s involvement in procedural issues not involving the adjudication of the parties’ substantive claims. Such involvement—which merely gives legal effect and meaning to the dispute resolution process—is not what was meant by ‘litigation’ in Section 3.5.”
You might remember some of the tactics used by the Woke pastor and his trustees. Pastor James Welch and church trustees excommunicated about 200 members in one batch for speaking out against leaders. And the purge continued targeting anyone and everyone associated with a group of concerned members.
So, in desperation, one of the dissident members asked the court to order arbitration. Without arbitration, the church leadership wins the fight.
FBC Ft. Lauderdale is not the only church facing litigation from members worried about Woke church leadership. McLean Bible Church lost its first skirmish in court and the case will proceed.
The McLean Bible Church case gained a more receptive hearing in Virginia courts with the established precedent that associational constitutions and by-laws are contracts that courts can enforce using neutral rules.
Both cases highlight how church members can resist authoritarian leaders like James Welch and David Platt. Expect to see more church battles heading to court as conservatives fight the Woke infiltration.