Community of Christ Begins Legal Fight to Protect Historical Name
The Community of Christ, which has about 250,000 members worldwide, is suing the South Restoration Branch of Raytown. The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court.
The Community of Christ, headquartered in the Kansas City suburb of Independence since 1920, split from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1860. Its members remained behind when the larger Mormon church relocated to Utah. It was known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly abbreviated as "RLDS," until 2001 and still holds trademarks on both designations.
"The church legally trademarked these names decades ago," presiding Bishop Steve Jones said in a statement issued Wednesday, "and has taken all appropriate steps throughout the years to retain its ownership of all right, title and interest in and to the marks 'Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' and 'RLDS'."
The term "Restoration Branch" refers to members' belief that the movement restores proper doctrine lost by the larger church. Membership in the Restoration Branches consists largely of people who left what is now the Community of Christ in the 1980s, disagreeing with its decision to begin ordaining women. Other doctrinal differences also exist between the larger church and the Restoration Branches, which have an estimated 12,000 members.
In April, the Joint Conference of Restoration Branches adopted a resolution to use the RLDS name, although not all branches have done so. But while the Community of Christ no longer uses its former names, it is not willing to give up trademark rights to them.
"The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and RLDS names are integral to our heritage and will always be a significant element of who we are," Jones said. "Furthermore, there are nations in which the name Community of Christ could not be used, and there are important implications for legal documentation pertaining to such things as land titles."
No one answered the South Restoration Branch's listed telephone number, and court documents did not list an attorney.
AP - Community of Christ sues church over name
Independence Examiner - Church sues to protect name
Hays Daily News - Community of Christ sues small church for using its former name