Contempt Motion by Wilmette NSA
against Orthodox Bahá'í Faith:
Decision is final! NSA did not further appeal the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision which affirmed trial court decision finding Orthodox Bahá'ís were not in contempt
All documents are in PDF format. If you cannot open the files, click here for free download of Acrobat Reader
[Updated April 14, 2011]: The deadline for the NSA to file a petition for certorari with the United States Supreme Court was March 29th, but the NSA did not file anything with the Supreme Court. Therefore the decision of the Court of Appeals is final and this litigation, pending since November 2006, is now finally concluded.
[Updated December 30, 2010]: The Court of Appeals has denied the NSA's Petition for Rehearing on December 29, 2010. The deadline for filing a petition for certorari with the U.S. Supreme Court is 90 days. After that, the decision becomes final unless overturned by the Supreme Court.
[Updated December 9, 2010]: The Wilmette NSA has filed on December 7th with the Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit a petition for rehearing asking the panel or the entire Court of Appeals to rehear the case. That petition is now pending.
Click here for Petition for Rehearing
[Updated December 5, 2010]): The Provisional National Bahá'í Council of the United States, the governing body over Orthodox Bahá'ís, issued the following statement today:
Orthodox Bahá'í Faith wins appeal before 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
CHICAGO, IL-- After reviewing briefs and then hearing oral arguments on February 20, 2009, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, on November 23, 2010, to uphold the judgment previously handed down by the United States District Court. It was the ruling of the Honorable Amy J. St. Eve of April 23, 2008, after holding an evidentiary hearing January 7, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois, that the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith was found not guilty of contempt charges levied against it by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States (Wilmette NSA). The injunction that the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith was accused of violating would have prohibited it from using the name "Bahá'í", meaning a follower of Baha'u'llah (as the name Christian refers to one who follows Christ.)
In the ruling of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, it found that the original judgment and ruling of Judge St. Eve to be sound and free of any legal error. It therefore upheld in its entirety the innocence of the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith in the contempt charges levied against it by the Wilmette NSA. Furthermore, the Appellate Court could not refute her written judgment in which she cited that key witnesses for the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith, Franklin D. Schlatter and Marilyn Meyer, gave "credible testimony" that the organization was not formed with the intention of violating the 1966 Judgment.
The Court of Appeals affirmed that the Orthodox Bahá'ís were not legally identified with the NSA under Mason Remey and therefore the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith is not bound by the 1966 Judgment. The original injunction was issued over forty years ago to that now-extinct rival body to the Wilmette NSA. In the judgment handed down by Judge St. Eve, she wrote: "[T]he chain of succession lacks a link."
"The Council is pleased that the Court of Appeals upheld the sound decision of Judge St. Eve. We the Orthodox Baha’is of the United States, as fellow believers in the Faith of Baha’u’llah, differ with the Wilmette NSA only in that we believe Shoghi Effendi did not fail in his duty to appoint a successor during his lifetime,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, the Secretary of the Provisional National Bahá'í Council for the Orthodox Bahá'ís (PNBC).
The Wilmette NSA, a national branch of the world organization with over 6 million members, brought the legal action against the PNBC, whose membership, in contrast, numbers about 50 in the United States, many of whom are lifelong believers.
As a result of the Appellate Court upholding the original findings of Judge St Eve, assuming it becomes final, there is no legal impediment to the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith's use of the name "Bahá'í" in identifying itself and it may continue to teach its belief in the continuing Guardianship of the Faith of Baha'u'llah, a teaching in direct opposition to that taught by the NSA group. The Orthodox Baha'i Faith recognizes Joel B. Marangella as the rightful living Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith.
Also named in the case was the Bahá'í Publishers Under the Provision of the Covenant, a completely separate organization from either of the other parties. They too were originally found not guilty and this judgment was also upheld.
The complete opinion of the Court can be found on the internet:
[Updated November 24, 2010]: The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued its decision yesterday affirming Judge St. Eve's opinion that the Orthodox Bahá'ís were not legally identified with the NSA under Mason Remey and therefore the OBF is not bound by the 1966 Judgment.
The opinion is available from the Court here:
Here is a breaking news article:
[Updated 18 May 2009]: The action by the NSA finally gets the attention of the press. Click here for information about the Chicago Tribune's article about the action pending in the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, Illinois. The appeal was brought by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States (NSA), located in Wilmette, Illinois, after it lost its contempt motion against members of the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith
[Revised 28 February 2009] The parties are awaiting the decision of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, Illinois in the appeal brought by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States (NSA), located in Wilmette, Illinois, after it lost its contempt motion against members of the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith and the Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant, which are two separate and distinct entities.
The NSA had called upon the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division to hold in contempt members of both minority Bahá'í organizations who, the NSA claimed, were in violation of an injunction its predecessor obtained some 40 years ago against a rival Bahá'í body (the NSA loyal to Mason Remey).
In legal documents provided to the court on December 6, 2006, the NSA claimed that members of the current minority Bahá'í groups, although not parties to the case brought against the NSA loyal to Mason Remey, nevertheless are bound by the 1966 Judgment. While not providing any specifics with regard to how the minority bodies have harmed the majority body, the NSA contended that the websites (including this one) of the smaller organizations were doing irreparable damage to the NSA.
The basic contention of the NSA was that the members of the minority groups were violating the NSA's alleged trademarks on the name "Bahá'í" and the religious symbol of the "Greatest Name", and it sought from the court a ruling which would prohibit the minority members from using the alleged trademarks to the detriment of the NSA.
The NSA sought to restrain both those individuals who at one time were even remotely associated with the enjoined rival Bahá'í body and any 'nonparty' members who have since developed different Bahá'í organizations.
Those members of the minority group who call themselves Orthodox Bahá'ís, to distinguish themselves from the members of the majority organization, stated that the trademark by the Wilmette NSA on the "Greatest Name" is the equivalent of a Christian denomination trademarking the Cross and then saying that no other Christian congregation can use that symbol in their activities or in their contacts with others.
Additionally, Orthodox Bahá'ís maintain that the name "Bahá'í" is in the public domain and cannot be the exclusive property of one organization. They say that like the name "Christian" and "Muhammadan", which refer to followers of Christ and Muhammad respectively, the name "Bahá'í" refers to a follower of Bahá'u'lláh, who all Bahá'ís acknowledge as the latest Prophet from God.
For some 35 years the Orthodox Bahá'ís have been employing the name "Bahá'í" in their newspaper and magazine publicity and in the telephone Yellow Pages, and during that time the NSA has made no move to implement the provisions of the injunction that the majority organization is now using to seek contempt citations against members of the minority groups. Should the NSA be successful in its efforts to curtail their activities, Orthodox Bahá'ís contend that, for them, the First Amendment of the Constitution is no longer valid.
The NSA on 23 May 2008 filed an appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit of a ruling that the Orthodox Bahá'ís were not in contempt of a injunction entered in 1966 against the NSA loyal to Mason Remey."[T]he chain of successorship lacks a link," wrote the Honorable Amy J. St Eve, United States District Court Judge,in her Judgment in favor of the Orthodox Bahá'í Faith and the Bahá'í Publishers Under the Provisions of the Covenant. The Court ruled on 23 April 2008 after holding an evidentiary hearing on 7 January 2008 in Chicago, Illinois on the contempt motion brought by the NSA. In her decision, the Court stated that: "the vast weight of the record (including credible testimony) reflects that there was a significant doctrinal rift on a critical tenet of each group’s faith, and that the PNBC’s membership varied materially from that of the NSA-UHG. The record further reflects a demonstrable lack of intent to violate the injunction, and that the PNBC was not created to avoid the effect of the injunction. Simply put, there is no substantial continuity between the NSA-UHG and the PNBC, and, as a result, Mr. Schlatter, Mr. Marangella, and the PNBC have not violated the injunction."
The appellate case had been fully briefed when the parties argued in Chicago Illinois on 20 February 2009 before a panel of Judges of the Court of Appeals: the Honorable Daniel A. Manion, the Honorable William J. Bauer, and the Honorable Diane S. Sykes.
Appearing on behalf of the Orthodox Bahá'ís was James McClymonds, a New York attorney who is the grandson of A.S. Petzoldt, the chairman of the NSA under the Hereditary Guardianship (under Mason Remey) and whose deposition was taken by the NSA in the original case. James was a small child when his grandfather expressed the wish that someone would one day come forward to overturn the outrageous judgment that the Wilmette NSA had obtained against Remey's NSA.
The appellate briefs and a recording of the oral argument held on 20 February 2009 are available on the web site of the Court of Appeals of the Seventh Circuit in Chicago Illinois:
Appellate Briefs: http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/briefs.htm Enter the Year = "08" and the Case Number = "2306" Then click "List Cases", then click the Case Number for a listing of the briefs in PDF format.
Exhibit 1: 49-2 49-3 49-4 Exhibit 2: 49-5 Exhibit 3: 49-6 Exhibit 4: 49-7 49-8 49-9 Exhibit 5: 49-10 49-11 Exhibit 6: 49-12 Exhibit 7: 49-13 Exhibit 8: 49-14 Exhibit 9: 49-15 Exhibit 10: 49-16 Exhibit 11: 49-17 49-18 49-19 Exhibit 12: 49-20 Exhibit 13: 49-21 Exhibit 14: 49-22 Exhibit 15: 49-23 Exhibit 16: 49-24 Exhibit 17: (sealed)* Exhibit 18: 49-26 Exhibit 19: 49-27 Exhibit 20: 49-28 Exhibit 21: 49-29 Exhibit 22: 49-30 Exhibit 23: (sealed)* Exhibit 24: 49-32 Exhibit 25: (sealed)* Exhibit 26: (sealed)* Exhibit 27: 49-35 Exhibit 28: (sealed)* Exhibit 29: (sealed)* Exhibit 30: (sealed)* Exhibit 31: (sealed)* Exhibit 32: 49-40 Exhibit 33: 49-41 49-42 49-43 49-44 49-45 Exhibit 34: (sealed)* Exhibit 35: (sealed)* Exhibit 36: 49-48 Exhibit 37: 49-49 Exhibit 38: (sealed)* Exhibit 39: (sealed)* Exhibit 40: (sealed)* Exhibit 41: 49-53
Exhibit 43: (sealed)* Exhibit 44: (sealed)* Exhibit 45: (sealed)* Exhibit 46: (sealed)* Exhibit 47: 49-69 Exhibit 48: (sealed)* Exhibit 49: (sealed)* Exhibit 50: (sealed)* Exhibit 51: (sealed)* Exhibit 52: 49-74 Exhibit 53: 49-75 Exhibit 54: (sealed)* Exhibit 55: (sealed)* Exhibit 56: (sealed)* Exhibit 57: (sealed)*
*Redacted Pursuant to Protective Order