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The Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the role of the Orthodox Church is "administrative" in nature and is in conformity with the public interest, meaning that the judiciary has the right to rescind church decisions if they are not found to conform to this interest.
In justifying its verdict, the court stated that the constitution protects the family, irrespective of its religious beliefs. It grants the right to all citizens to establish families in accordance with their respective religion, but within the confines of laws that set certain rights and obligations--laws that religious institutions are not permitted to challenge.
It also stated that the personal affairs bylaws--which the denominational council formally recognized in 1938--allows divorcees to remarry.
The court went on to state that Christianity recognized monogamy, which means a person may have only one spouse. However, if the marriage contract is annulled, that person has the right to marry again. If the church recognizes a divorce, the court noted, it must also recognize second marriages.
However, Coptic Pope Shenouda III has repeatedly vowed to resist the ruling. In his sermon last Wednesday, the pope said he would not allow second marriages except in cases of proven adultery--but not to the partner who committed it.
"I will not take orders from a civil institution because this is a strictly religious matter for which the Bible serves as our only reference," Shenouda said.
Lawyer Nabih al-Wahsh officially requested that the pope carry out the court ruling for a client of his or face legal measures. This prompted some 7000 Facebook members to launch a campaign in solidarity with Shenouda, promising "upheavals" should anyone attempt to confront him.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.