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society was expelled, and an officer of the society published, by their order, a statement of the grave charges upon which he had been found guilty, the expelled member recovered damages from the officer in a suit for libel, the court holding that the truth of the charges did not affect the case" (H. M. Robert: Rules of Order, p. 199).
A religious body cannot do as it pleases, any more than any other body, simply because it can get a majority of its members to consent to the deed. The body must conform to the laws of the land and common equities, and it must conform to its own constitution as well. With each member it enters into a contract so to do, and the member can hold the body to its contract and compel it to treat him according to its own law and the law of the land.
As long as the ecclesiastical body acts according to its own rules, and does not violate the law of the land, the civil courts will not interfere with the church or the legal action of a church body. If, however, an individual member considers that the religious body has injured him, and in so doing has acted contrary to its own law and, possibly, in addition, his country's law, the aggrieved member can appeal to the civil courts, and the civil courts could intervene to right the wrong. Thus, if a member was in such an illegal manner expelled from membership, or ejected from a remunerative or honorable position, the civil power could be invoked, and, if the facts were as stated, the courts could order the reinstatement of the member and the righting of the wrong in some manner.
In such a case the body could not successfully plead that it had done such things before with other members. The question would be as to what was the law, for even a so-called "precedent" would not be law when it was contrary to the law, and ignorance of the law would be no defense.
Access to Records. Any member has a right to have access to, to inspect, and even to copy from the Journal or Minutes. He is a partner in the concern and has a right to consult its records. The clerk or secretary is the custodian of, and must protect, the Journal and other documents, but he cannot prevent members from examining them. Jefferson says: "Every member has a right to see the Journals, and to take and publish votes from them. Gray, 118, 119" (Manual, Section XLIX).
Expunging. Some doubt has been expressed as to the right of a body to expunge records of transactions from its Journal. Usually bodies insist on the accuracy of their Journals, but "In rare instances the House and Senate [of the United States] have rescinded or expunged entries in Journals of preceding Congresses" (Digest of the United States House of Representatives). In 1834 the Senate of the United States passed a censure on President Jackson, and in 1837 the Senate passed a resolution to expunge this censure, but there was no literal expunging -no pricking out, rubbing out, or blotting out. It still stands in the record with a line drawn around the part and a note to the effect that this had been expunged. It is at least questionable whether a truthful record can be expunged. If a vindication is desired it may be accomplished in some other way.
To Amend Rules, By-Laws, and Constitution should require a two-thirds vote.
Parliamentary Thoroughness comes particularly from observation, practice, and the mastery of underlying principles. There is a reason for everything, and usually, to say the least, the rules of common parliamentary practice are reasonable and based on reason. The true
parliamentarian is not a trickster who is guilty of sharp practice. He is a gentleman who recognizes the rights of all. Common sense is always in order, and order is always common sense. The fair parliamentarian will be sparing in his use of the previous question, particularly in the ordinary deliberative body. This motion has been classed expressively, if not elegantly, under the head of "gag law," because of its power to prevent discussion. The motion to lay on the table, as frequently used, is of the same nature. Though there are times when these motions are of very real service, they should not be used simply as "gag motions." Certainly, it is in very bad taste for one who has spoken on the question to try to "gag" others who desire to speak. So some bodies have a rule prohibiting a member to move the previous question or to move to lay on the table at the close of his speech.