The Courts and the Colonies offers a detailed account of a protracted dispute arising within a Hutterite colony in Manitoba, when the Schmiedeleut leaders attempted to force the departure of a group that had been excommunicated but would not leave. This resulted in about a dozen lawsuits in both Canada and the United States between various Hutterite factions and colonies, and placed the issues of shunning, excommunication, legitimacy of leadership, and communal property rights before the secular courts. What is the story behind this extraordinary development in Hutterite history? How did the courts respond, and how did that outside (state) law relate to the traditional inside law of the Hutterites?
Alvin J. Esau is Professor in the Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba.
[The Courts and the Colonies] was riveting, and we found it hard to put down each night when time came to turn off the light and catch forty winks.
Anyone thinking the secular courts can solve a church conflict should read this book before launching such action. It is a sobering cautionary tale.
The Courts and the Colonies is an informative discussion ... It is a valuable addition to Hutterite studies specifically ... more generally the book has important things to say about the legal status of all communal religious societies in North America.
Esau's references to these factors in the social and economic context and his understanding of the theological issues supplement his thorough analysis of the legal issues and specifically the question of freedom for religious groups. Together, they make this a most valuable book.
A good read.