Federal Court Claims Right to Regulate Scripture Interpretation
- Federal Court Claims Right to Regulate Scripture Interpretation
A Federal Court has claimed the right to regulate how religious organizations may interpret the Scriptures. On Monday April 5th a court in the U.S. District Court Northern District of Texas denied a Motion to Dismiss filed by a Messianic Jewish Group being sued by The Way International.
The Way International is an ostensibly Christian group often branded a "cult" (1) and with a history of alleged anti-Semitism. In a 1982 report the Anti-Defamation League reported that the group was "promoting anti-Semitism", that the founder was teaching that the Holocaust "never happened" and that "modern Jews are not descendants of ... the biblical tribes" (2). In 1995 the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that the followers were urged to read "The Myth of the Six Million" and "The Hoax of the Twentieth Century" which question the reality of the Holocaust (3).
The suit claims that the Hebraic Roots Version (HRV) Bible, the standard version of the Scriptures for many Nazarene Jews worldwide for the last ten years, infringes on the copyright of the Aramaic English Interlinear New Testament once published by the Way. The Way seeks through this suit, to ban the HRV Bible.
The Worldwide Nazarene Assembly of Elohim maintains that all translations of the Bible read very much alike and that the Hebraic Roots Version does not infringe on anyone else's copyright. Many portions of the HRV New Testament and the AEINT are both literal translations of the ancient Aramaic Peshitta New Testament and while the two translations have many similarities, they also have many differences.
The WNAE maintained that the HRV is its standard accepted version of the Scriptures, and as such, is the doctrine of its organization. The WNAE maintains that Bible translation is Scripture interpretation and that Scripture interpretation is doctrine. They state that they believe in every word the Bible as it as written as their doctrine and that the HRV is their Bible.
In their Motion filed March 8th, the WNAE argued that their Bible is their doctrine, that Bible translation is Scripture interpretation, and Scripture interpretation is doctrine. They further argued that the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment has been understood by the U.S. Supreme Court to prevent the court from hearing property disputes between religious groups where doing so would require the court to consider, weigh or interpret doctrine or resolve doctrinal disputes. In this case they argued that the court would have to engage in all of these forbidden activities in order to hear this case, and in effect regulate their interpretation of Scriptures and therefore their doctrine.
On Monday April 5th the court denied the Motion to Dismiss with no explanation. In effect claiming that the Federal Government may regulate the interpretation of Scripture and tell religious organizations how their Bible can read.
This action is the latest in a series of similar legal actions by the Way International, which raise questions concerning the free exercise of religion. In 2007 The Way International sent a letter to The Way, a Baptist church located in Grant County, Kentucky, threatening to sue them over use of the name "The Way"(4) That same year, they filed a lawsuit against "The Way Ministries" claiming trademark infringement (5).
The term "The Way" is actually a term found in the Bible for the early followers of Yeshua (Jesus) (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23 & 24:14).
This latest suit directly challenges the foundations of the Establishment Claus of the Constitution, as to whether or not religious groups may interpret the Scriptures and word their Bibles as they see fit, or whether the Government can consider, weigh and interpret the doctrine of religious groups, resolve doctrinal issues and even ban versions of the Bible.
Donations to the WANE Legal Fund are being accepted at:
(1) Listed as a "cult" by Watchman Fellowship a leading Christian anti-Cult ministry. Their "profile" on the Way International is at: http://www.watchman.org/profile/waypro.htm
(2) Anti-Defamation League accuses religious group of Anti-Semitism
St. Petersberg Times - July 24, 1982 p. 37
(3) The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette says concerning The Way International: "Charges of anti-Semitism brought more unwanted publicity when followers were urged to read
"The Myth of the Six Million" and "The Hoax of the Twentieth Century." Both
books cast doubt on the Holocaust. Six ex-followers have told the Arkansas
Democrat-Gazettethat Wierwille and other Way leaders had taught that the
Holocaust was a myth concocted by the Jews."
- The Way: After a family breaks up, questions arise about the group; By Mary Hargrove; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Staff Writer