OPINION OF THE COURT
On November 13, 1973, appellant, Robert L. Bear, filed a two-count complaint in equity against appellees, Reformed Mennonite Church, Glenn M. Gross and J. Henry Fisher, in their capacities as bishops and as individuals. Count one of the complaint was against all of the appellees and alleged that appellant was excommunicated from appellee church for his criticism of the teachings and practices of both the church and its bishops. It was further alleged that the church and bishops, as part of the excommunication, ordered that all members of the church must "shun" appellant in all business and social matters. ("Shunning," as practiced by the church, involves total boycotting of appellant by other members of the church, including his wife and children, under pain
In count two of the complaint, appellant alleged that appellee Glenn M. Gross, while a bishop of appellee church, is also the brother of appellant's wife and that he has "advised" or "encouraged" her to "shun and boycott" appellant, resulting in appellant's wife not having any social or physical contact with him.
No responsive pleadings were filed by appellee church or appellees Gross and Fisher, either in their capacity as bishops or individuals. Rather, a two-line preliminary objection, demurring for failure to state a course of action, was filed. This demurrer was sustained and this appeal followed.
Appellant argues that the court below erred in sustaining appellees' preliminary objection in the nature of a demurrer. We agree.
In Buchanan v. Brentwood F.S. & L. Assoc., 457 Pa. 135, 320 A.2d 117 (1974), this court reiterated the standard for judging a demurrer:
Appellees and the court below took the position that in examining the complaint in the above light, the "Free Exercise" clause of the First Amendment was a complete defense to both counts of the complaint and thus the granting of appellees' demurrer was proper. We do not agree.
In our opinion, the complaint, in Counts I and II, raises issues that the "shunning" practice of appellee church and the conduct of the individuals may be an excessive interference within areas of "paramount state concern," i.e. the maintenance of marriage and family relationship, alienation of affection, and the tortious interference with a business relationship, which the courts of this Commonwealth may have authority to regulate, even in light of the "Establishment" and "Free Exercise" clauses of the First Amendment.
The United States Supreme Court, in discussing permissible governmental curtailment acts done in furtherance of or pursuant to religious belief, has allowed a certain degree of regulation. In Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398,
Moreover, the Supreme Court in Sherbert, supra, at page 406, 83 S.Ct. at page 1795 continued:
While the First Amendment may present a complete and valid defense to the allegations of the complaint, in the instant case, appellant has pleaded sufficient facts and created sufficient "doubt" that would entitle him to proceed with his action in order that he may attempt to prove the requisite elements that would entitle him to relief under Sherbert, supra.
Decree reversed. Case remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion. Costs to be borne by appellees.
ROBERTS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
MANDERINO, J., concurred in the result.
POMEROY, J., dissents.