Case Comment: Garcia v Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization

(2020) 86:2 Arbitration 211

12 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2020 Last revised: 12 May 2020

See all articles by Phil Lord

Phil Lord

McGill University - Faculty of Law


This piece analyses the decision rendered by Justice James D. Whittemore of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida in the case of Garcia v Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization. It goes beyond the face of the decision, which upholds an arbitration award, to argue that the decision has significant implications for freedom of religion in the United States. More specifically, it argues that the decision narrows the grounds upon which a religious arbitration award can be vacated by a court. The decision allows religious legal systems to, in some circumstances, exist with no oversight from the court system. It exemplifies and supports the thesis that the protections afforded to religious freedom in the United States create room for religious legal systems that are inconsistent with the mainstream legal system to exist. Finally, this piece considers, in light of the obvious issues raised by Justice Whittemore’s decision, whether it might be time to rethink judicial review of religious arbitration awards.

Keywords: law and religion, religion, scientology, new religious movement, religion and law, cult, church, sociology, arbitration, religious arbitration, freedom of religion, constitution, constitutional law, judicial review, United States, arbitration award, legal system, judicial review

Suggested Citation

Lord, Phil, Case Comment: Garcia v Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization. (2020) 86:2 Arbitration 211, Available at SSRN:

Phil Lord (Contact Author)

McGill University - Faculty of Law ( email )

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