The appeal of ERA activist Sonia Johnson for reversal of a decision to excommunicate her from the Mormon Church has been denied, she was informed last night.
In the appeal process, Johnson claims, church officials violated church laws as well as due process by holding a secret trial on her case without notifying her.
Last December a court consisting of a bishop and two advisers excommunicated the Sterling, Va., housewife after finding her guilty of "apostasy" and of publicly criticizing the church and its leadership. She denied the charges, contending that her troubles stemmed from her support of the Equal Rights Amendment, which top Mormon officials have denounced.
Johnson, a fifth-generation Mormon, appealed that verdict to the stake president, the next higher level in the church hierarchy.
Johnson said last night that, on orders from the church's Salt Lake City headquarters, she was denied access to the records of the original trial in preparing her appeal. She was not allowed to make her own record of that trial.
Stake president Earl Roueche, who presided over her appeal, said that "the minutes [of the trial] are the record of the court and don't belong to the individual for whom the trial is being held."
Johnson said her appeal cited procedural errors in the original trial, including, she said, "that they used erroneous newspaper clippings and evidence against me, that they [the court] imposed a harsh time limit, that they browbeat witnesses," and that there was bias against her. In the Mormon court system, the bishop serves as both prosecutor and judge.
Johnson said last night that she was not surprised by the rejection of her appeal, but that she was "upset" to learn that a high court of the church had been convened to hear her case without her knowledge. "It's required [by church rules] that they notify a person that they are holding that court," she said.