The Courts and the Colonies: The Litigation of Hutterite Church Disputes

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UBC Press, 2004 - Law - 384 pages
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The Courts and the Colonies offers a detailed account of a protracted dispute arising within a Hutterite colony in Manitoba, when the Schmiedeleut leaders attempted to force the departure of a group that had been excommunicated but would not leave. This resulted in about a dozen lawsuits in both Canada and the United States between various Hutterite factions and colonies, and placed the issues of shunning, excommunication, legitimacy of leadership, and communal property rights before the secular courts. What is the story behind this extraordinary development in Hutterite history? How did the courts respond, and how did that outside (state) law relate to the traditional inside law of the Hutterites?

Utilizing voluminous court records, Esau provides a detailed and fascinating narrative of the prolonged disputes and litigation history of Hutterite colonies at Lakeside, Oak Bluff, Rock Lake, and Huron. He considers whether the legal action was consistent with the historic non-resistance of Hutterites or whether it signaled a fundamental change in norms of Anabaptist perspectives on litigation. He examines the past history of Hutterite litigation, and how the roots of the schism related to controversy over the Schmiedeleut leadership and its alliance with the Bruderhof, a group of Christian communalists, living mainly in the Eastern United States. At stake is the nature of freedom of religion in Canada and the extent to which our pluralistic society is prepared to accommodate the existence of groups that have an illiberal legal system that may not cohere with the outside legal system of the host society.

While this book will be of particular interest to scholars of law and religion, it will also appeal to anyone in Anabaptist studies, sociology, anthropology, political theory, and conflict resolution.

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About the author (2004)

Alvin J. Esau is Professor in the Faculty of Law atthe University of Manitoba.

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