[191 NJSuper Page 414] This action was instituted by plaintiffs to enjoin the continued use of "Christian Science" or "Church of Christ, Scientist" by defendants in reference to their church and bookstore. The relief sought is predicated on alleged violations of trademark infringement and unfair competition. A brief overview of the
parties involved as well as the historical background is appropriate at the outset.
Plaintiff Christian Science Board of Directors (board) is a Massachusetts corporation organized to conduct the business of The First Church of Christ, Scientist in Boston, Massachusetts (mother church) which is considered the spiritual and administrative center of the worldwide organization commonly known as the Christian Science Church. Plaintiff Board of Trustees of The Christian Science Publishing Society (publishing society) is a trusteeship pursuant to a deed of trust given in 1898 by Mary Baker Eddy (Eddy), the founder of the Christian Science Church. This group is the publishing segment of the mother church, subject to the authority and direction of the board. Defendant The Independent Christian Science Church of Plainfield, New Jersey (Plainfield church) is a religious corporation of the State of New Jersey conducting its activities in Plainfield. The individual defendants Doris W. Evans, Stephen T. Evans, Roy Dobbelaar, Ruth Pfeifer, Joanne Jannuzzi*fn1 and Mary Beth Singleterry are all members of the board of trustees of the Plainfield church, the governing body for defendant church.
Christian Science refers to a religion founded and developed by Eddy in the late 19th century as a result of her discovery of a mental or spiritual means of healing ailments and illnesses. Initially, she entered into an association with several other people who sought to learn the practical healing techniques associated with her beliefs. Eddy published a book in 1875 entitled Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures which has evolved into the denominational textbook.
As time went on, it became clear to Eddy that a more structured organization should be established to preserve her teachings and to maintain the integrity of her beliefs. The more formal church was then organized in the late 1870's by Eddy and subsequently reorganized into what is now known as
the mother church. She also established subsidiary organizations to aid in promoting and strengthening her religious system, including the publishing society, Christian Science Reading Rooms, Christian Science Board of Lectureship, Christian Science Committee on Publications and the Massachusetts Metaphysical College which was later assumed by the Christian Science Board of Education of the mother church.
Eddy also compiled the Church Manual which delineates the structure and organization of both the church and the board of directors. It also provides guidelines for matters of religious practice and morality. All activities of each member church or society are dictated by the Church Manual, creating what has been termed as a melding or fusion between the teachings, organizations, structure and practice of the Christian Science denomination.
The Christian Science Church, as opposed to other religions, has a centralized publishing segment emanating from the mother church which provides literature for use by the member churches and societies. These materials are distributed to the Christian Science Reading Rooms operated and maintained by local branches across the United States.
Within the Christian Science denomination groups, which hold regular services for worship, utilizing a standard liturgy, are described as either a branch church or a society. The number of members determines whether a group is to be designated as a branch church or a society. There are approximately 1,600 branch churches and 450 societies in the United States. In New Jersey there are 47 churches out of a total of 51 branches. Following the provisions of the Church Manual, the formal name of the mother church is The First Church of Christ, Scientist while branch churches have the formal designation of First Church of Christ, Scientist. Subsequent branch churches in the same city are entitled Second, Third, etc. Church of Christ, Scientist. However, it appears that the more commonly known name of Christian Science Church has been used by church
leaders, church members and the public over the years to refer to the branches and societies as well as to the mother church. Moreover, the designation Christian Science Church has been extensively used in plaintiffs' publications in reference to the mother church and its branches.
The operative facts are undisputed. On June 6, 1977 plaintiffs notified defendants that their recognition as a branch church was withdrawn and that defendant church no longer had any legal right to publicly identify itself as a Church of Christ, Scientist, a Christian Science Church or to use "Christian Science" in connection with its religious activities. This disaffiliation apparently arose as a result in part of a religious doctrinal dispute concerning which party's course of conduct comported more closely with the teachings of Eddy.
Subsequent to the actions by plaintiffs in dissolving defendants' relationship with the mother church, defendants officially adopted a new method of identifying their church and reading room, using the name, Independent Christian Science Church of Plainfield, New Jersey. The Plainfield church also terminated its status as a religious corporation, which had been obtained pursuant to N.J.S.A. 16:1-1 et seq. on or about December 23, 1923, and reincorporated as a general religious corporation under N.J.S.A. 16:1-1 et seq.*fn2 The corporate name was then changed to Independent Christian Science Church of Plainfield, New Jersey.
As stated earlier, this suit was instituted by plaintiffs to enjoin defendants from using "Christian Science" or "Church of Christ, Scientist" in relation to their church and reading room in Plainfield, New Jersey and any acts likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception as to defendants' ...