In my other life, I’m a law student and therefore an aspiring lawyer. I am always interested in court cases that involve churches or religion, and even more so when it involves the LDS Church (see my posts from about a month or so ago). What I have noticed is an unfortunate fact that courts do an incredibly poor job of taking cognizance of religious doctrine and organization. Some people may say that a court has no business delving into a religion’s doctrine and in many instances they would be correct. However, I can think of a couple of situations (including the OR Supreme Court case I discussed earlier) where it would be appropriate and necessary for a court to do so.
That being said, we, the Latter-day Saints, don’t exactly make this easy on them. I have seen some pretty awkward citations of the standard works as proof of our doctrine, but we know that we don’t believe everything in the scriptures and the scriptures don’t contain everything we believe. What is a judge to do? Does the Prophet have to be put up on the stand or deposed out of court? Even then, we don’t (or should not) make doctrine out of everything the Prophet says. A judge who is Mormon should clearly recuse himself/herself from any case involving the Church, so he/she would be little to no help. Supposedly unbiased and objective scholarship of the Church typically misapprehends the true form or substance of our beliefs as well, so it is an equally unreliable source. I guess my tentative conclusion is that we cannot expect to see any improvement in the treatment of religious doctrine in judicial opinions, because the sources are notoriously conflicted (even in our own hierarchical Church).