A man from Syria who says he was tortured and nearly beheaded there after converting to Christianity in the US has no legal recourse against an Oklahoma church that published his name and baptism online, the State's highest court ruled yesterday.
The former Muslim, identified in the lawsuit as 'John Doe' says that after his baptism in 2012 at the First Presbyterian Church in Tulsa he returned to Syria and was kidnapped by radical Muslims who learned of his baptism online. He says that he is now wanted for murderin Syria after killing a relative who aided his captors.
'Appellant asserts that he suffered numerous physical injuries and psychological damage, all proximately caused by appellees' publication of his baptism, in contravention of promises they supposedly made to him that it would be kept confidential,' the court wrote in its majority opinion, according to ABC News.
But the court upheld a lower court ruling and decided that courts must refrain from 'undue interference with religious beliefs and practices' despite the plaintiff's injuries.
Chief Justice Douglas Combs wrote in the majority opinion: 'Per the church autonomy doctrine, the courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over the matter.'
Keith Ward, the plaintiff's attorney said that his client is considering whether to petition the court for a rehearing. He added that since the lawsuit was filed in 2014, his client has become a US citizen and now lives in Tulsa, but struggles with injuries he suffered in the attack and fears for his life every day.
An attorney for the First Presbyterian Church, John Tucker said that the court's ruling was significant because it affirms the importance of religious liberty.
'This is the first case in the United States in which a court has affirmed that how a church conducts its baptisms is only the business of the church and is not subject to interference by the civil courts,' Tucker said. 'That's important, because baptism is an essential core concept of Christianity.'