Clarity on the Rightness or Wrongness of Lawsuits Among Christians from our BJS Theologian-Blogger Pastor Klemet Preus
(This is the first post of several on this topic.)
Here we go again with a discussion about the rightness or wrongness of Lawsuits.
The last time the question of Lawsuits was discussed in our circles was in 2005 when certain members of the synod brought suit against President Kieschnick and Vice president Bill Diekelman. Labeled the “Anderson lawsuit,” it was brought for two reasons. First the president had created over 175 votes at the 2004 convention by granting an undue amount of exceptions to the rules governing the size of electoral circuits in the synod. Second there were decisions of the 2004 convention and opinions of the CCM which violated Missouri law regarding the authority of the Board of Directors of a Non-profit organization.
At the 2007 convention of the synod, prior to the elections of Board and committee members a resolution was passed which, in effect, stigmatized those who had signed the Anderson lawsuit in which President Kieschnick was the defendant. This resolution states, “that prior to any vote on any individual floor nominee for any board or commission, the convention delegates be told whether or not the floor nominee …was a plaintiff in the Anderson lawsuit…” Even though the motion seemed clearly to violate Bylaw 22.214.171.124, President Kieschnick ruled the motion in order and it was adopted. The resolution had the effect of guaranteeing that no one who had been part of the suit against president Kieschnick got elected to serve the synod on any board.
So that suit was perceived to be morally wrong, impious or at least in bad form and the people who filed it were deprived of a place at the LCMS table
Currently we are again discussing the question of Lawsuits because, according to a Southern Illinois District resolution, “On December 16th, 2008 the attorney for the LCMS Board of Director’s sent a letter threatening to recommend legal action against Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwarz, ‘to enforce its rights to the trademark’” of Issues etc..
Back in 2005 the president of the synod was a defendant. In the case under discussion today the synod through its board would be the plaintiff should the threat be realized.
This has lead people to wonder a number of things.
Are lawsuits between Christians always wrong?
If not when are they and when are they not? What criteria should be use in determining the moral rightness of a legal action?
If so then what about literally millions of cases involving anything from requests for child support to damages in car wrecks to criminal charges against Christian agencies claiming child abuse, to Paul’s legal appeals to go to Rome.
Is it wrong for the synod to threaten a legal action against other Christians?
If so, then why are they doing it?
If not, then was it wrong for others back in 2005 to bring a legal action against President Kieschnick?
Such apparent inconsistency on the part of the synod has been questioned by any number of signatories of a petition which has been circulated throughout the church asking the Board of Directors to “drop its opposition to the trademark application for the Issues, Etc. name, cease all consideration of bringing a personal lawsuit against Pastor Wilken and Mr. Schwarz, and offer to them the Synod’s blessing on their endeavors.”
One petitioner queried, “This is an added request that Synod, Inc explain the inconsistency of its practices. On the one hand, Synod, Inc says that it is un-Christian for Christians to file lawsuits against others when Synod, Inc is the defendant. Now, it is perfectly fine for Synod, Inc to be the plaintiff in this case. Is Synod, Inc not Christian now? Please explain and set the record clear for all to hear.”
Another opined, “For two years, President Kieschnick and his supporters said that lawsuits were sinful. Now, therefore, he should prevent even the hint of legal action against Wilken and Schwarz.”
A third offered, “President Kieschnick, as a delegate to the last synodical convention I heard you rightly deplore lawsuits in the church and among brothers in our synod. Why the change of heart? Are you and the board of directors exempt from Scripture and your own admonishments in this regard?”
The members of the synod who know the facts do not have a difficult time identifying hypocrisy when they see it. But all of us are having trouble knowing precisely when and why a legal action should be considered a violation of the Bible. So the next few blogs will examine the issue using I Corinthians 6 as the norm of our discussions.
We will discover that I Corinthians 6 is clearly not discussing every conceivable lawsuit involving one Christian against another.
We will also discover that not only lawsuits are under discussion in the passage.
Let’s bring the Bible to bear on our thinking. I believe that those who signed the Anderson Lawsuit (I am among them) were hastily, simplistically and wrongfully accused of violating I Corinthians 6. I would hate to see the same hasty and wrong judgment leveled against our Christian brothers on the Board of Directors of our synod or against President Kieschnick. At the same time if these brothers need correction based upon the word of God they would, no doubt, as Christians accept it.
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