Man Claimed Court Violated His Religious Rights First Amendment Challenge to PFA

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jan 01, 2022 | 0 Comments

A Pennsylvania Superior Court has ruled on an appeal challenging the constitutionality of a protection-from-abuse (PFA) order. Manjinder Singh argued that a final PFA court order against him violated his First Amendment right to “free exercise of religion.” He also alleged the PFA trial court had erred and abused its discretion by favoring the plaintiff, his ex-wife Kulwarn Kaur.

Can a PFA Be Enforced in a Church?

According to the superior court documents, Singh and Kaur were married in 2010 and divorced in 2014. They had no children. Both remarried, and Kaur had a child with her second husband.

Although he lived far away, Singh claimed he had attended the Nazareth Temple since 2005. Kaur, who lives only a few miles away, began attending the temple with her husband when she remarried in 2015. Singh's second wife does not attend the temple on Sundays because of her work schedule, according to Singh.

Singh had obeyed a previous PFA Kaur had obtained, but it had recently expired. Tensions between the pair at the church had been escalating to the extent that temple officials asked Singh to stop attending services in January 2020. He continued to attend despite the request. On Sunday, Feb. 2, there was an altercation between the two in the temple.

Both Kaur and Singh obtained temporary PFAs against the other. Kaur testified Singh had threatened her, saying in part, “I will make sure that your life is also miserable, and I will actually try to harm your son as well.” For his part, Singh said Kaur's husband and other relatives assaulted him.

After numerous extensions of the temporary PFAs because of the pandemic, a hearing was held on July 15, 2020. The court granted final PFAs to both parties. Singh was barred from attending the Nazareth temple when Kaur was there. Singh chose to appeal the judgment against him.

Court Decision Is Unanimous

A three-judge panel was convened to consider Singh's constitutional challenge. In an Aug. 2, 2021, ruling, the superior court determined that the PFA trial court did not “place a substantial burden on Singh's right to freely exercise his religion.” The judges noted that Singh was not barred from the Nazareth Temple the other six days of the week, and there were two other similar Sikh temples in the area. Therefore, his First Amendment rights were not violated.

The superior court dismissed Singh's four-paragraph argument that the trial made errors of law and abused its discretion in favor of Kaur. The court ruled Singh waived (forfeited) his own appeal by failing to provide any “meaningful” evidence, case law, or legal analysis to justify a review of the trial court order.

Singh absolutely did the right thing by obeying the civil PFAs against him. If he had violated the PFAs, he would have been charged with a criminal offense, fined up to $1,000, and jailed for up to six months.

Singh was within his rights to appeal the PFA he thought was unfair. However, he apparently did not have the benefit of competent legal counsel, as evidenced by the summary dismissal of his allegation of trial court misconduct.

Experienced PFA Defense

If you or a loved one has been served with a PFA, do not violate the order, and do seek an attorney experienced in civil and criminal PFA defense. Call our Criminal Law Team and the LLF Law Firm at 888-535-3686.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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