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Restraining Orders

A woman's right to be protected from abuse, harassment, and stalking outweighed her husband's perceived constitutional right to attend the church of his choice.

* A Louisiana court ruled that a restraining order prohibiting a husband from going within 100 yards of his wife's residence did not violate the husband's constitutional right to attend his church that was located within 100 yards of his wife's residence. Courts frequently issue restraining orders preventing a specified person (usually a current or former spouse) from being within a designated distance of a person in need of protection. A trial court in Louisiana issued such an order following a hearing in which a wife testified that her husband threatened her life with a knife, and engaged in frequent acts of pushing, shoving, choking, and beating. The court's order prohibited the husband from going within 100 yards of his wife's residence. Within a few months the husband was found in contempt of court for going within 100 yards of his wife's residence. A trial judge imposed a prison sentence of six months with credit for time already served.

The husband asked the court to reduce the 100-yard requirement to 50 yards so that he could attend his church which was located more than 50 but less than 100 yards from his wife's residence. He testified, "I want to attend church, and my wife's house is right at a hundred 100 yards, so I haven't been attending church. If it's set at fifty 50 yards then I can attend church and not be in violation of the protective order." A trial court rejected this request, and this ruling was affirmed by a state appeals court. The court concluded: "We find [the husband's] argument that the 100 yard distance requirement imposed by the trial court violates his constitutional right to attend the church of his choice to be without merit. From the evidence contained in the record it is evident that the church to which [the husband] refers is in very close proximity to [his wife's] home. Considering the fact that the trial court found [him] in contempt of court on three different occasions for either contacting his wife or for going near her residence, we find no abuse of the trial court's discretion in its finding that her right to be protected from abuse, harassment, and stalking outweighs her husband's perceived constitutional right to attend the church of his choice." Francois v. Francois, 941 So.2d 722 (La. App. 2006).

Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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Posted:
  • July 1, 2007