Church tradition debate sparks suit
By Carol Sowers — The Arizona Republic — Sept. 17, 2002
Descendants of Spiritual Christian Jumpers Jumping
Molokans, Russians who emigrated to Glendale in
1911, are suing their own relatives and others for
locking them out of their meeting hall church
and refusing to follow traditions such as leaping and
conducting services in their native language.
"Some of the Tolmachoff clan has rejected their own heritage, and we find that very, very, strange, because they don't know their own heritage," said Andy Conovaloff, board secretary of the Church of the Spiritual Molokans, which filed the lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court.
But Reed King, the Phoenix lawyer representing the defendants, say they were reclaiming the church that had been wrestled away from them.
Many of the 12 defendants are elderly and felt
intimidated by the plaintiffs, King said. Two Several
defendants, including a man who had recently suffered
a stroke, falsely
claim they were attacked by two some
of the five plaintiffs Sept. 12, 2001.
|Many members of the
Tolmachoff family, who still live and farm in the West
Valley, are descendants of the first Spiritual Christians
who emigrated to America and later Glendale to avoid
religious persecution, taxes, land rents, and the Russian
The Spiritual Christian Molokan Jumpers incorporated a church in 1936, but its congregation has dwindled to 30 to 40.
According to the lawsuit, the trouble started Aug. 5, 2001, when defendant David J. Tolmachoff interrupted services, announcing that he and other members of his family were its new directors. Then, the suit says, the defendants yelled, cursed and threw around articles of "religious significance."
The family feud heated up in January when the defendants locked the plaintiffs out of the church at 75th and Griffin avenues, the suit says. The defendants are also accused of removing $911 in church funds and filing false papers with the Arizona Corporation Commission, saying they were the new directors.