Supreme Court rules that membership decisions of religious organizations are not subject to judicial review

June 19, 2018

Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Judicial Committee) v. Wall, 2018 SCC 26

On May 31, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada, in a unanimous decision, ruled that the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta had no jurisdiction to review a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation’s decision to shun one of its members over alleged drunkenness and verbal abuse. This ruling, which specifies that decisions of religious organizations regarding membership are not subject to judicial review, protects religious and other private organizations from the existential threat of litigation over membership decisions.

Gerald Chipeur, Q.C., and Jonathan Martin (commercial litigation) of Miller Thomson represented the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada, two of the intervenors, in these proceedings.