General Assembly of Free Church of Scotland v Overtoun: HL 1904

Craigdallie stated settled law: ‘My Lords, I disclaim altogether any right in this or any other civil court of this realm to discuss the truth or reasonableness of any of the doctrines of this or any other religious association, or to say whether any of them are or are not based on a just interpretation of the language of scripture, or whether the contradictions or antinomies between different statements of doctrine are or are not real or apparent only, or whether such contradictions do or do not proceed only from an imperfect and finite conception of a perfect and infinite Being, or any similar question. The more humble, but not useless function of the civil court is to determine whether the trusts imposed upon the property by the founders of the trust are being duly observed . . The question in each case is what were the religious tenets and principles which formed the bond of union of the association for whose benefit the trust was created? . .’


Lord Davey


[1904] AC 515




AppliedCraigdallie v Aikman PC 14-Jun-2013
A chapel was acquired with the subscriptions of a congregation which seceded from the Church of Scotland in 1737 and subsequently split over whether a magistrate might suppress heresy. Each of the rival groups claimed that the chapel belonged to . .

Cited by:

CitedParochial Church Council of the Parish of Aston Cantlow and Wilmcote with Billesley, Warwickshire v Wallbank and another HL 26-Jun-2003
Parish Councils are Hybrid Public Authorities
The owners of glebe land were called upon as lay rectors to contribute to the cost of repairs to the local church. They argued that the claim was unlawful by section 6 of the 1998 Act as an act by a public authority incompatible with a Convention . .
CitedThe Bahamas District of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas and Others v The Hon Vernon J Symonette M P Speaker of the House of Assembly and 7 Others (No 70 of 1998) and Ormond Hilton Poitier and 14 Others v The Methodist Church PC 26-Jul-2000
PC (The Bahamas) The Methodist community had split, eventually leading to a new Act. Others now challenged the constitionality of the Act, and that lands had been transferred in breach of the constitution.
Not followedVarsani and others v Jesani, Patel and Her Majesty’s Attorney-General CA 3-Apr-1998
A Hindu religious sect, constituted as a charity, had split into two factions.
Held: The court had jurisdiction to order that the assets of the sect should be divided under the powers in the Act, and held upon separate trusts for the two . .
CitedBlake v Associated Newspapers Ltd QBD 31-Jul-2003
The claimant, a former Anglican priest, sued in defamation. The defendant argued that the claim was non-justiciable since it would require the court to adjudicate on matters of faith and religious doctrine.
Held: The claim could not be heard. . .
CitedKhaira and Others v Shergill and Others CA 17-Jul-2012
The parties disputed the trusteeship and governance of two Gurdwaras (Sikh temples). The defendants now applied for the claim to be struck out on the basis that the differences were as to Sikh doctrines and practice and as such were unjusticiable. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Ecclesiastical, Trusts

Updated: 18 November 2022; Ref: scu.187517