Some denominations ordain, license or certify persons as credentialed or authorized to engage in specified religious rites or activities. These same denominations usually accord themselves the power to revoke that which they have given. The revocation might be based on religious doctrines or it might be based on secular sounding reasons like failure to renew or failure to pay fees or dues. Revocation or withdrawal of such permissions to engage in specified religious rites or activities can effectively prohibit the formerly licensed person from engaging in any official role in the denomination. There is not likely to be any recourse in the event of revocation or withdrawal of permission to act.
In Bacharach v Star K Certification, Slip Op. (Mary. App. 2022), the trial court dismissed the Plaintiff’s tortious interference with contract claim on Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine grounds and because the Plaintiff’s corporation, which was also a named party, was “forfeited” by the state, probably for the failure to renew its incorporation. Plaintiff alleged Defendant was the third-party vendor that the denomination used to oversee certification of adherence to the laws of “Kashrut,” and certification to act as “mashgiach,” “someone who oversees the preparation of kosher food.” The Plaintiff’s certification to act as “mashgiach” was withdrawn. The Defendant denomination allegedly notified Plaintiff’s business contacts that Plaintiff was no longer certified as a kosher caterer. The appellate court affirmed the dismissal and held the determination of whether Plaintiff was wrongfully decertified required an inquiry into religious doctrine governing kosher food preparation. The appellate court also affirmed the dismissal of the claim by Plaintiff’s corporation because it was a “forfeited” corporation that could not maintain a lawsuit.
The Plaintiff in the reported case may have been certified by a different denomination or different group within the denomination as well as by the Defendants but the opinion’s recitation of that fact is stingy on the details. Nevertheless, where available, certification by more than one authoritative source would not be a bad practice. Falling out of favor with one group might not end the ability to serve or minister if it is possible to remain in favor with another. The notification of Plaintiff’s business contacts by the withdrawing licensure authority in the age of transparency, however, may no longer be actionable if the licensing authority had some duty to speak regarding termination of the licensure.