Decision Number 212
Request of General Board of Christian Social Concerns for Answers to Certain Questions Without Reference to any Act or Legislation of the General Conference or Paragraph or Paragraphs of The Discipline
Under the Constitution and the existing legislative provisions for declaratory decisions the authority and jurisdiction of the Judicial Council is limited to the making of rulings as to the constitutionality, meaning, application and effect of an act or legislation passed by the General Conference or of a paragraph or paragraphs of the Discipline.
Statement of Facts
On or about April 13, 1964, the General Board of Christian Social Concerns filed and submitted to the Judicial Council the following paper:
"A REQUEST FOR A DECLARATORY DECISION
"To be presented to the Judicial Council from the General Board of Christian Social Concerns: "Question #1 - Has any authority other than the preacher in charge of a local church, the District Superintendent or the Bishop the right to forbid any person who is properly dressed or properly behaved from attending a service of worship in a Methodist Church?
"Question #2 - Have the Trustees or the Official Board of any local Methodist Church the right to close the church property to any person or persons who say that they wish to attend such a church for public worship or Christian instruction in regularly scheduled classes?
"Question #3 - Have the Trustees and/or the Official Board of a local Methodist Church the right to refuse the use of the church building for purposes other than that of worship and/or Christian instruction; or for meetings not in accordance with the purposes for which said church buildings have been set apart?"
For the reasons hereinafter stated in the Analysis the Judicial Council does not have jurisdiction to render a declaratory decision in this matter.
Analysis and Rationale
Paragraph 914 of the 1960 Discipline provides that "When the General Conference shall have passed any act or legislation that appears to be unconstitutional or subject to more than one interpretation, or when any paragraph or paragraphs of the Discipline seem to be of doubtful meaning or application, the Judicial Council on petition...shall have jurisdiction to make a ruling in the nature of a declaratory decision, as to the constitutionality, meaning, application, and effect of such act, legislation, or paragraph or paragraphs of the Discipline." (emphasis added).
It is implicit in the language of Paragraph 914 of the 1960 Discipline that a petition for a declaratory decision should designate and set forth the act, legislation, or paragraph or paragraphs of the Discipline in question and it is clear that the Judicial Council in its ruling is restricted to a consideration of the "constitutionality, meaning, application, and effect of such act, legislation, or paragraph or paragraphs of the Discipline" set forth in the petition. (emphasis added).
The paper before us does not allege that any act or legislation of the General Conference appears to be or is unconstitutional or subject to more than one interpretation nor does it allege that there is a paragraph or that there are paragraphs of the Discipline which seem to be or are of doubtful meaning or application. The questions propounded are abstract and based upon assumptions of fact which are ambiguous and uncertain. In fact there are no allegations of fact upon which to base a decision.
It thus appears that the request of the General Board of Christian Social Concerns now before us, lacking essential allegations, does not state facts sufficient to constitute a petition for a declaratory decision and that the Judicial Council is without authority to render such a decision.
It is therefore the decision of the Judicial Council that said request or petition of the General Board of Christian Social Concerns be and the same is hereby dismissed.