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FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/NSF) – A South Florida appeals court has turned down a lawsuit stemming from a woman’s allegation that a cemetery had not properly buried her late husband in accordance with “Jewish burial customs and traditions.”
Orna Mammon filed the lawsuit against Menorah Gardens and Funeral Chapels and its parent company and alleged that she had received misleading information about Jewish burial customs being followed, according to the ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal.
The widow visited her husband’s grave about a month after his burial and found that non-Jews had been buried nearby, which she said violated Jewish customs.
But a Broward County circuit judge dismissed the lawsuit, and the appeals court upheld that decision, pointing to a legal principle known as the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine.” Broadly, that principle says courts should not resolve internal disputes in religious organizations if the disputes involve religious doctrine.
The appeals court said a circuit judge would have to determine what constitutes Jewish burial customs and traditions to determine if misrepresentations occurred.
“Because the First Amendment’s ecclesiastical abstention doctrine precludes the circuit court from evaluating these deeply religious questions, the court would be unable to perform its ultimate task of deciding whether the defendants made deceptive and fraudulent misrepresentations regarding ‘Jewish burial customs and traditions,’ said the ruling, written by appeals-court Judge Jonathan Gerber. “Thus, the First Amendment’s ecclesiastical abstention doctrine precludes the court from having subject matter jurisdiction here.”
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.