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Milestone Victories

A landmark California case, which began in 1979 as an attempt to subjugate religion under a psychiatric yoke, ended with passage of a law that protects churches from punitive damages claims by antireligious interests.

The case, involving a frivolous lawsuit filed against a Christian church over the suicide of a parishioner, progressed through a series of rulings and appeals in California state courts over a period of ten years. The Church of Scientology worked with more than 1,500 religious organizations in opposing the suit and making its ramifications known to other religions and the public.

In the eventual 1989 decision, the US Supreme Court endorsed a California Supreme Court decision which held that the state’s laws forbid the filing of such cases against churches. The right to free practice of religion was upheld, and this attempt to position psychiatrists as overseers of religion was dismissed.


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