ILF Law Firm prevented an unlawful takeover of the Lutheran Church
ILF Law Firm was contacted by Pavlo Schwartz, candidate for the position of Bishop of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ukraine. His issue was that despite having the support of the Lutheran community in Germany, the German Embassy and the majority of Church communities in Ukraine, he had been unable to get officially registered as head of the Church.
The situation was caused by his opponent, who, in an attempt to seize power, resorted to openly illegal methods: created grounds for being registered as head of the Church by falsifying the minutes of the Synod and managing to get the registration service to go through with it. Thus, in violation of the Church’s charter, a parallel structure of communities was created which started making its own decisions and managing property: pastors’ apartments, cars as well as Church buildings themselves.
The self-proclaimed Bishop tried to completely overhaul the organization of the Church, aiming to get rid of opposing communities and pastors. With that in mind, using two fabricated lawsuits that allegedly challenged the Synod’s decision, he convinced an administrative court to grant an injunction against making any changes to the information about the organization, including changes regarding its head.
ILF team filed and won an appeal against the administrative court’s injunction. When the firm`s opponent appealed the Synod’s decision in a district court, the firm`s lawyers lodged an appeal against it as well. Since the firm`s client had the real minutes of the Synod, which definitely would have had him registered as head of the Church, the first priority was to lift the injunction secured by the firm`s opponent.
The firm`s opponent also held the Synod’s minutes, albeit falsified, which meant that the lawyers also had to have them nullified. For this ILF team turned to a commercial court, which closed the proceedings with a remark that the case concerned a dispute between Church authorities and wasn’t a corporate one.
Constitution stipulates a separation of church and state. Thus, the position of the Supreme Court today is dictated by its inability to consider religious disputes concerning appeals against church-related decisions lodged with secular courts.
When the team managed to lift the ban on registration for the second time, they received letters of support from the German Evangelical Lutheran Church, as well as expressions of support from the German Embassy and the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine.
When the firm contacted the registrar, it encountered a very specific requirement: the registration service wanted them to make sure that the Church’s current charter was in line with the current legislation. Having sorted out all the nuances, ILF specialists helped the communities to prepare a new founding document. Then, on the basis of the Synod’s decisions and with the required quorum present, Pavlo Schwartz finally had been registered as the legitimate Bishop.
After lifting the injunctions, the firm was able to resolve the issues almost without involving the courts.