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ROBERT L. BEAR v. REFORMED MENNONITE CHURCH ET AL. (07/07/75)

decided: July 7, 1975.

ROBERT L. BEAR, APPELLANT,
v.
REFORMED MENNONITE CHURCH ET AL.



COUNSEL

George B. Faller, Frances H. Del Duca, Carlisle, for appellant.

William B. Ball, Joseph G. Skelly, Ball & Skelly, Harrisburg, for appellees Reformed Mennonite Church and Glenn M. Gross.

William M. Musser, Jr., Rengier, Musser & Stengel, Lancaster, for appellees Reformed Mennonite Church and J. Henry Fisher.

Jones, C. J., and Eagen, O'Brien, Pomeroy, Nix and Manderino, JJ. Roberts, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of this case. Manderino, J., concurred in the result. Pomeroy, J., dissents.

Author: O'brien

[ 462 Pa. Page 332]

OPINION OF THE COURT

On November 13, 1973, appellant, Robert L. Bear, filed a two-count complaint in equity against appellees, Reformed Mennonite Church, Glenn M. Gross and J. Henry Fisher, in their capacities as bishops and as individuals. Count one of the complaint was against all of the appellees and alleged that appellant was excommunicated from appellee church for his criticism of the teachings and practices of both the church and its bishops. It was further alleged that the church and bishops, as part of the excommunication, ordered that all members of the church must "shun" appellant in all business and social matters. ("Shunning," as practiced by the church, involves total boycotting of appellant by other members of the church, including his wife and children, under pain

[ 462 Pa. Page 333]

    that they themselves be excommunicated and shunned.) Appellant, in his complaint in equity, alleged that because of his being "shunned," his business is in collapse since he is unable to hire workers, obtain loans or market his produce. Moreover, appellant alleged that his family is in collapse because his wife and children do not speak to him or have any social or physical contact with him. Appellant has, therefore, requested the appropriate relief.

In count two of the complaint, appellant alleged that appellee Glenn M. Gross, while a bishop of appellee church, is also the brother of appellant's wife and that he has "advised" or "encouraged" her to "shun and boycott" appellant, resulting in appellant's wife not having any social or physical contact with him.

No responsive pleadings were filed by appellee church or appellees Gross and Fisher, either in their capacity as bishops or individuals. Rather, a two-line preliminary objection, demurring for failure to state a course of action, was filed. This demurrer was sustained and this appeal followed.*fn1

Appellant argues that the court below erred in sustaining appellees' preliminary objection in the nature of a demurrer. We agree.

In Buchanan v. Brentwood F. S. & L. Assoc., 457 Pa. 135, 320 A.2d 117 (1974), this court reiterated the ...


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