Madison - St. Clair Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Woman’s 'spirited' lawsuit settles against East St. Louis Church

By Christina Stueve Hodges | Feb 20, 2013


St. Clair County Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot announced a Madison County woman’s negligence lawsuit against an East St. Louis church has settled.

Cheryl Jones filed a lawsuit in 2011 against Disciple Fellowship Christian Church claiming that during a service in January 2010 members in the congregation rushed to "receive the spirit." Jones claimed ushers were there to catch people who fell as they received the spirit. They were were able to assist some congregants, but not all, the suit claimed. Jones also claimed the pastor was alone as one woman received the spirit and allegedly fell backward. Without ushers nearby to catch her, the woman allegedly knocked several other worshipers into Jones.

Jones claimed she fell to the ground, and several people fell on top of her. She claimed she lost consciousness during the incident and received serious injuries to her head, neck and back in the fall.

Jones sought more than $50,000.

Disciple Fellowship Christian Church filed a motion to dismiss last March, stating the court is required to defer to the religious authority of Disciple Fellowship Christian Church.

The church claimed the lawsuit sought recovery for “the manner in which the worship service is conducted,” which encroaches the church’s ability to practice its religious doctrine and exercise its faith.

The plaintiff maintained the defendant failed to provide a safe place to worship and failed to control parishioners, who were receiving the spirit.

The church maintained that the U.S. Supreme Court, along with Illinois appellate courts, have held that the free exercise clause in the U.S. Constitution guarantees churches to decide for themselves without state interference the methods of faith and doctrine.

Attorneys Brian P. Millikan and Christopher A. Wright of St. Louis represented Jones.

David C. Berwin of Evans & Dixon in St. Louis represented the defense.

St. Clair County Circuit Court Case No. 11-L-702

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