Can a US religious organization be sued by a foreign government? (John Allen Chau/ Sentinel Islers)

Background :

So John Allen Chau, sponsored by the International Christian Concern (ICC) ( headquartered in DC, went on a conversion mission to the Sentinel Island.

These island folks were decimated when they came in contact with the Brits (same story like American Natives).

It’s sad that John was killed but he broke the law and even endangered the lives of the Sentinel Islanders.

It is obvious that ICC should never have sponsored such a dangerous and illegal mission. But can they be sued by the Indian Government ? Will US courts have jurisdiction ?

Just a side note - one item I read a while ago said that Andamans were generally hostile because the first contact with the outside was slave raiding parties back in the 1300’s to 1500’s. (Much the same happened to Easter Islanders in the 1700’s from Chile). So they have good reason to be immensely hostile to any outside intruders.

IANAL, but… A church group can be sued. I think the Catholics have made that clear. If they have no substantial presence in India and the impetus (and possibly the “conspiracy”) can be shown (inferred?) to have originated in the USA, why can’t an organization be sued where they are based? It seems to me very evident that the Indian government is the de facto guardian of the Sentinelese, so should have standing to sue on their behalf for endangerment, etc. Whether that’s reason enough to sue, I don’t know. I’m not sure how the laws protecting the islanders could be a basis for a lawsuit, though, or even extradition; but if anyone involved in actively encouraging the act were to travel to India, I’m sure they could expect to be charged. it appears the locals who transported him have been charged with murder since they should have known (a) they were breaking the law by approaching the island or helping someone visit and (b) the likely outcome was death. Whether that connection could get the ICI people involved extradited for murder charges - who knows?

Where is this idea that he was being sponsored by the ICC coming from? Someone said that in the Pit thread, too, but every news article I have seen makes no mention of this.

I just read an article saying Chau was part of something called The Way, which is a little difficult to google but the most common hit seems to be a church in Berkeley, not sure if that’s the one. No mention of the ICC in the article. Doesn’t mean he wasn’t of course.

In general I feel people like Chau and the guy locked up in N Korea and the guy who tried to swim to visit Aung San Suu Kyi when she was under house arrest are sort of off mentally, and easily disowned by any church they belong to. I seriously doubt there’s any official sign-off on risking death in this way.

Let me put it another way, the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses aren’t sending delegations to Sentinel Island.

“Jeff King is president of International Christian Concern, the organisation with which Mr Chau was aligned, and was in contact with him during his visit.“

From BBC -

Just curious - what legal action does the OP think could be brought against an American religious organisation in these circs?

Thanks for that. Perhaps there is some cause of action against the church or its head–if there is some kind of email trail in which King encourages Chau to go for it. Either by the government of India or maybe a wrongful-death by the Chau family. If the contact was by phone, no possible suit.

Unless the NSA decides to release its recordings of the calls…

India’s laws are generally based on British law. And there you generally have to be able to show some ‘actual damages’ from an action to recover costs. Were there any such damages caused to this tribe?

Of course, some of them suffered disturbance & mental anguish, but is that recoverable damage? Possibly the arrows in his body were taken away with the body – those have actual value (but rather small). I suppose the government of Indic could try to recover for their costs in sending a boat & people to recover the body, clean up, etc.

Might take awhile to suss out and rather more likely we’ll never know. The BIG threat is communicable disease. Folks in isolation like this tend to be very vulnerable to bugs you’d shrug your shoulders about. It is unlikely, but remotely plausible, that he could have landed there while being asymptomatic with some virus and ended up inadvertently infecting and extirpating the entire population.

Isn’t the OP asking if there’s a cause of action under US law?

If you are asking about the authority of courts (jurisdictional competence), then, yes, a foreign government can sue a US religious organization. It can do it under its own authority in its own courts, or it can do it as a plaintiff in a US court.

All they have to do in the US is file a complaint a complaint alleging damages caused by a US entity. US entities are subject to US laws regarding their actions regardless of what country they are in when they perform the action. US courts may also apply foreign laws on behalf of foreign plaintiffs against US defendants in certain cases (such as when a contract states that the laws of Canada apply).

From a quick non-technically competent surf through the internet India appears to have a legislative provision for anti-conversion laws, which have in the past been used to target christian minorities because they were suspected of proselytising.

As the Andamans are part of a federal territory I’m not sure how that applies as they are discretionary for states to implement, but I’m sure there is some book on the Indian government’s shelf that can be thrown far and hard at the Christian organisation.

What does it mean to be “aligned” with an organization? Maybe he did some volunteering with them in the past. All the articles make it sound like he just decided to get off on his own “adventure” around the world, and give no indication he was on any sort of missions trip being funded by them.

What does it mean when the president of the organization stays in contact with him during his visit? Does that sound like he just did some volunteering for them?

If the Indian government sues in India under Indian law (or assesses a fine under criminal law, say, for contributing to the murder) and presumably gets a default judgement can that debt then be enforced in US courts? Generally foreign judgements are enforced AFAIK, but I recall something about UK libel judgements, for example, being ignored in the USA because the libel law is laughably stupid in the UK.

I think you’re buying into the PR mentality of “organizations” wanting to make themselves out to be as big and important as they can, this Jeff King’s seeming desire to find persecution under every rock, and also the bureaucratic mentality of wanting to find some sort of “official” entity to blame for something bad happening. For all we know, this ICC is the President, a secretary, a couple of interns, and a website. It’s not like this guy is the president of a Fortune 500 corporation, someone an average Joe can’t get a meeting with. Plus being “in contact” can mean literally one 1-line email and one reply.

Given that this BBC’s article’s offhand mention that he was “aligned” with ICC and Jeff King’s mention of being “in contact” with him are all we have go on, contrasted with the numerous other articles (including one which editorializes heavily, calling Chau “deluded,” and one from an apparently Indian source) which, despite describing his plans for his trip in some detail by quoting extensively from his own communications, make no mention of his being on any sort of “official” missions trip, I’m going to bet that no legal action will be brought against International Christian Concern.

If the nature of his communications with Mr. Chau did not entirely consist of him trying to convince Chau not to go to North Sentinel Island, he bears partial moral responsibility for Chau’s death. It takes but a few minutes on a smartphone or computer to know that going to North Sentinel Island is both illegal and hideously dangerous.

Why would he want to do that? His entire gig is persecution and/or martyrdom.

Heck with lawsuits, Chau was committing a felony in attempting to land there. His murder as a direct result of his commission of a felony means he was guilty of felony murder.

Anyone conspiring with him to commit his crime of landing should be held criminally liable for conspiracy to commit felony murder.

If an organization was assisting with fun things this trip, could this be considered material support to the crime.