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Kedroff v. Saint Nicholas Cathedral

344 U.S. 94 (1952)


Facts of the Case:

This case was brought to solve a dispute over who could use and occupy a local church. Following the communist turmoil in the Soviet Union, the New York legislature passed a statute transferring control over the church from the Moscow synod to American control. The local church was happy with the decision, but the church leadership in the Moscow synod wanted to maintain control. Kerdoff represented a group of parishioners who wanted the international church leadership to retain control over the local church.



Decision:

The Supreme Court ruled that the New York statute improperly involved the state with an internal church dispute.


Majority Opinion: (Justice Reed)

The New York law violates the Fourteenth Amendment by limiting the parishioners' rights to freely exercise their religion. In the statute transferring church control to American leadership, the state ruled that the church must "in all other respects conform to, maintain and follow the faith, doctrine, ritual, communion, discipline, canon law, trends, and usages of the Eastern Confession." This imposed certain beliefs on the members of the St. Nicholas Cathedral.


Significance:

The Court was unwilling to allow New York to make decisions affecting the internal operations of a church within its territory. Attempting to do so has an effect on the free exercising of the religious convictions of the church community.




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