Community of Christ sues over RLDS church name

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Community of Christ is suing the South Restoration Branch in Raytown, Missouri over their use of the name "Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" and the "RLDS" initials, used to identify the Community of Christ until 2001.

The document filed on Monday to the U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri, alleges six counts of federal trademark infringement, false designation of origin, federal trademark dilution, common law unfair competition, common law trademark infringement and state trademark dilution. The Community of Christ is seeking a preliminary injunction, which would prevent use of the name until the case is settled.

Several other Restoration Branches have also been using the name but no legal action has been taken against them at this time.

The Joint Conference of Restoration Branches voted in April this year to use the RLDS name, as recommended by their Succession Committee. It is not yet known whether the Raytown South Branch is associated with this effort or whether this will effect any other Restoration Branches who are or have been using the RLDS name.

The Reorganized Church, founded in 1860 by Joseph Smith III grew out of the original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints founded by Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830. Historically, the RLDS have claimed to believe in the original tenets of the Latter Day Saint movement, and do not adhere to major Mormon doctrines.

In the 1980s, a split occurred between conservative and liberal factions resulting in the "RLDS" which subsequently renamed itself the "Community of Christ" and which up to recent times has been uncontested as the legal successor to the original RLDS church, and the Restoration Branches, a scattered group of local churches who became separate from the main organization in protest of what they saw as incorrect changes to fundamental doctrines.

Many members of Restoration Branches believe they have been disenfranchised in church government by the Community of Christ, citing the rights of branches listed in the Articles of Incorporation of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. (1872) They argue that the methods employed to institute a policy called "Supreme Directional Control" violated the branches and individual members rights to voice and vote in the deliberative assemblies of church government.