Father had sued, claiming unauthorized ordination of his sons
The ruling, however, allows Michael Gulbraa to pursue his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress in his allegation that the church concealed information about the whereabouts of his sons after their noncustodial mother kidnapped them.
Allowing Gulbraa to press his other claims – that the church breached a secular agreement not to perform ordinances without his permission – would effectively subject The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to judicial oversight and “excessively entangle” the court system in the church’s operations or interpretation of its teachings, the court said.
“Moreover, if [Gulbraa] were successful on his claims, the court would be forced to assess damages by placing a monetary value on participation in religious experiences,” Judge Judith Billings wrote for the appeals court.
She added the allegations in Gulbraa’s suit “are entirely religious and beyond the courts’ ability to adjudicate.”
Gulbraa, who is a member of the church, alleged that LDS leaders, by performing religious ordinances without his permission and participation, usurped his parental authority. He filed suit and sought an injunction barring similar actions in the future.
After a 3rd District judge threw out the suit, Gulbraa asked the Court of Appeals to reinstate it.
Gulbraa said that he and his lawyers are reviewing the appeals court ruling and had no immediate comment.
This legal battle grew out of a fight between Gulbraa and his former wife, Etsuko Tanizaki Allred. Although Gulbraa had obtained a court order requiring his sons to stay in Utah, Allred took the boys – Michael, now 17, and Chris, now 16 – to her native Japan in 2001.
Gulbraa, a former South Jordan resident who now lives in Columbus, Ind., was awarded custody of his sons in April 2002 and continued a legal fight to bring them back to the United States.
He alleges that LDS leaders in Japan had been instructed not to share any information about his children with him.
Chris returned on his own to the United States in August. He says his mother and her second husband did not consult with him about being ordained.