Jane Doe’s Mission: Safeguarding Individuals from Their Religious Communities in Church and State

The Legal System Should Not Allow Pseudonymous Plaintiffs (and Permit Holders to Conceal Records):

The law generally obliges people to be named in public documents when litigating or applying for various licenses. However, some laws recognize exceptions to protect individuals’ confidentiality in cases where disclosure could lead to social stigma, such as when facing special stigma in their religious community.

Confidentiality should be based on individual rather than sociocultural interests. Providing religious community members legal exemptions to conceal their activities might interfere with the religious community’s autonomy to make its own judgments about its members. Moreover, allowing certain litigants privacy would foster an implied condemnation of the religious community’s principles. Consequently, the legal system’s intervention in these matters could exacerbate existing tensions within the community.

Pseudonymous litigation is particularly prevalent when rape victims experience the risk of stigma within their religious community to prevent the underenforcement of rape laws. However, extending this approach to situations involving community disapproval of voluntary behavior is inappropriate. Protecting religious community members from stigma at the expense of stigmatizing the community itself is unfair and unconstitutional.

In conclusion, policymakers should carefully consider the broader social and legal implications of authorizing pseudonymous litigation. They should prioritize objective fairness and the protection of broader community relationships. An approach based on religious neutrality is necessary to address these challenges.

Excerpted and adapted from a publication titled: “The Law of Pseudonymous Litigation.”