"Church Must Pay $30,000 for Wrecking Marriage"
H. A. Mobley
In the Akron Beacon Journal, Tuesday, March 7, 1968, there appeared an article stating that Melvin E. Bradesku was asking $150,000, damages from the Radio Church of God for breaking up his marriage. He allegedly charged that this church and its officials, "by radio, literature and private counseling" informed his wife, Isabel, that their marriage was "adulterous" because he had been previously married and divorced. Mr. Bradesku's attorney claimed the church's beliefs on marriage and divorce led directly to Mrs. Bradesku's leaving her husband in August, 1966. In a letter to David Antion, minister of the Akron Radio Church of God, Mrs. Bradesku inquired as to whether her marriage was "legal in the sight of God." In his reply, Mr. Antion stated that Bradesku's previous marriage caused the second union to be "adulterous." In requesting these damages, Mr. Bradesku charged that the defendants "wrongfully, willfully, and maliciously designed and intended to estrange" Mrs. Isabel Bradesku's affection for him. This suit is said by lawyers to be unprecedented in Ohio courts.
This might have been considered rather amusing and Oven little thought had it not been for a later article on the front page of the Akron Beacon journal Saturday, March 9, with this caption, "Summit jury's Historic Decision - Church Must Pay $30,000 For Wrecking 'Marriage." Climaxing a three-day trial in common pleas Court, the jury, composed of seven women and five men, awarded this amount to the plaintiff, Melvin E. Bradesku.
Defense attorney, Edward Crouch, of Cleveland, said he "will appeal" the jury's verdict - all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court if necessary. He argued that Bradesku's complaint tacitly breached constitutional rights of free speech and religion.
I am not familiar with the details of the Bradesku case and therefore do not know if he had scriptural grounds (Matthew 19:9) for divorcing his first wife and marrying the second. Neither do I want to leave the impression that I agree with everything taught by the "Radio Church of God." These are not relevant issues in this article. However, should this decision remain firm when examined by higher courts, a precedent has been established for future lawsuits which could indeed take away "our constitutional rights of free speech and religion," as defense attorney, Edward Crouch stated.
Jesus said, "And I say unto you, whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Matthew 19:9). Anyone (whosoever) is married to one who ~as been "put away" for some cause other than fornication has "rejected the counsel of God." Jesus advises such, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). Likewise, any gospel preacher would advice, "Repent of this thy wickedness" (Turn from this adulterous union). He would be simply repeating what Jesus said. Would the courts of our land be constitutionally justified in placing him on trial for his teaching? Suppose a husband and wife who had been "drinking and partying" together should hear a gospel preacher teach that such sins of the flesh would condemn their souls (Galatians 5:19-20; I Corinthians 6:10). One believes and accents this teaching and repents. On the same principle, could not the unbelieving partner sue his mate for divorce on the rounds of incompatibility, naming the preacher or the church as the principal defendants? And so it goes with any sin condemned in God's word with the same calamitous results.
Jesus teaches that it is sometimes necessary to "forsake houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake," (Matthew 19:29) in order to inherit eternal life. According to this suit, every time one forsook any of the above to follow Jesus, he would be subject to suit.
Christians are taught to obey the laws of the land if these laws do not conflict with God's law (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:1315). When such a confliction exists, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). We read in the New Testament of Christians who were put in prison because they chose to obey God. It could very well be that we are rapidly approaching the time when we will be subjected to the same treatment. How about it, brethren? We need to voice our objection to such abuse of our God given and constitutional rights to our legislators. If we should be weighed in these flagrantly unconstitutional balances, how many of us would be willing to suffer the persecutions, even prison, rather than to compromise the truth of God?
In essence, Jesus Christ was placed on trial in Akron, Ohio. This time he was not tried in person, because he is now on the right hand of God in heaven. But the New Testament, the words of Jesus, were tried and the jury rejected them. I wonder if the lawyer opened the great Law Book and read to the jury the words of Jesus when He said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48).
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 10, pp. 18-19