Christian Litigation

     What would Christ do?
     I don’t normally get into religious discussions because no matter what you say, someone is going to hate you. But the question seemed appropriate the other day when an outfit called Couples for Christ, Inc. (a Florida corporation) filed suit in federal court in Los Angeles against another outfit called Couples for Christ USA (a Washington corporation).
     Apparently Christian couples counseling includes legal options.
     As you may have guessed, the suit is for service infringement and unfair competition.
     The uninitiated among us (myself included) might think the Christ Couples approach could include some cheek-turning and maybe even some happiness that the whole Christ thing is being spread to more couples.
     We’d be wrong.
     Said the suit: “Defendants’ infringement of the CFC marks has damaged CFC’s valuable good will and reputation and has adversely affected and, unless enjoined, will continue to affect adversely CFC’s reputation and CFC’s ability to provide services….
     “The members of the public have made financial contributions to defendants that they would have made to CFC but for defendants’ act.”
     Ah. Money.
     I don’t know about you, but I’m picturing the plaintiff’s couples counseling sessions as including some advice about dumping the loser spouse if he/she doesn’t have a good job.
     This suit gives us so many things to think about. You lawyers out there need to think about them because one day a local rabbi or priest or cult leader is going to walk into your office and demand that you sue a new but eerily similar spiritual group down the street for using the same service marks to convert people that might have gone to the old synagogue or church or hidden compound.
     Let’s start with the obvious (well, obvious to me anyway). Are we talking about for-profit corporations here? Is some bearded spiritual leader really going to walk into a deposition and insist he cares about losing money?
     If money is the real object, is it in the interest of your client to go to court and then have jokers like me notice it and point it out in print?
     If money is not the real object, can you have unfair competition for souls? If so, can we sue the political parties? (I hope that’s a yes.)
     And if unfair competition applies to religion, how about other laws? Surely the Mormons in Utah have got to be breaking some antitrust laws. And if some guy in a pulpit next door claims your followers are going to hell, isn’t that libelous?
     This could be a lot of fun.
     Eternal fun.
     ANOTHER HEADSHAKER. There’s still more evidence that the courts are here primarily for our amusement.
     Check out a 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling called DeJohn v. Temple University for the story of a graduate student who has spent two-and-a-half years in litigation and prompted a 38-page opinion from a federal appeals court so that he could feel comfortable talking in class about women in the military.
     Really. As far I can tell from the opinion, no one even tried to stop him from talking. He just thought he needed to sue because the university had a rule about creating hostile environments by saying stuff about gender.
     In case you’re wondering, he won the case – but, unfortunately, the classes are over.
     This guy’s next employer might want to think about throwing out any company rulebook.

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