Court ruling affirms church 'marks'

A Superior Court judge in Elizabeth, N.J., has ruled that a church group in Plainfield, N.J., must stop calling itself Independent Christian Science Church and may not use the terms ''Christian Science'' or ''Church of Christ, Scientist'' to identify itself.

Legal action had been initiated on July 21, 1980, on behalf of The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Mass., to halt confusing misuse of Christian Science trademarks and titles.

Three years earlier, the Plainfield group's recognition as a branch of The Mother Church had been withdrawn because of what The Christian Science Board of Directors had found to be ''conduct that grossly misrepresents the teachings of Christian Science in its community.''

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In his ruling June 17, Judge Frederick C. Kentz Jr. declared: ''It is clear from the record before me that the use of the term 'Christian Science' in relation to defendants' organization creates just that likelihood of confusion that plaintiffs seek to avoid.''

The judge also agreed with a prior federal court decision which found that ''. . . the term 'Church of Christ, Scientist,' or 'Christian Science Church' has one meaning, i.e., that it is a bona fide church of the Christian Science denomination related to The Mother Church.''

From 1907 to 1977, the Plainfield church had functioned under the name First Church of Christ, Scientist, Plainfield, N.J., as a branch of The Mother Church.

In its legal complaint, The Christian Science Board of Directors stated that the Plainfield group was ''unfairly appropriating the reputation, standing, and goodwill of The Mother Church, and causing confusion, mistake, and deception.''

A formal judgment incorporating the ruling has yet to be entered and the court has asked that a proposed judgment be submitted for its consideration. Under New Jersey law defendants will have 45 days from the time of judgment to appeal.

The Mother Church sought no monetary damages in the case, asking only legal enforcement of the exclusive right of The Mother Church and its branches to use the names and titles by which they have historically been identified since the founding of the Christian Science Church by Mary Baker Eddy more than 100 years ago.

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