Suit seeks to hold Bishop Lawrence personally liable for South Carolina’s secession: The Church of England Newspaper, December 13, 2013 December 18, 2013Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
Tags: Mark Lawrence
The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the faction loyal to the national Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, has filed a motion in state court seeking to add Bishop Mark Lawrence and three other diocesan officials as parties in the lawsuit over the control of church properties. The new pleading seeks to hold the breakaway leaders personally liable for the secession of South Carolina from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
On 25 November 2013 loyalists filed a motion alleging 18 causes of action against the four, the bishop, his canon to the ordinary, the current and former president of the standing committee , “including breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conversion, trademark infringement and civil conspiracy.”
Supporters of the diocese have dismissed the motion as a last minute ploy to salvage the national church’s case against the breakaway diocese.
Canon lawyer Allan Haley, who has represented breakaway dioceses of Quincy and San Joaqui in their litigation with the national church, stated the pleadings were ridiculous.
“It should be obvious to almost anyone that priests who break their ordination vows, or who violate the Constitution and Canons of the Church or of one of its Dioceses, cannot be sued in the civil courts for those actions,” he said, “that is the entire purpose of Title IV (“Ecclesiastical Discipline”) of the Canons.”
“I fail to see, therefore, how the rump group could have authorized the motion to add additional parties to state any claim for breach of the Constitution and Canons — or indeed, for breach of any fiduciary duties owed to the Church whatsoever,” he said citing a recent decision by the California Fifth District Appellate Court that “such questions are ‘quintessentially ecclesiastical’ — they are issues ‘the First Amendment forbids us from adjudicating’.”
“I fail to see how this ‘Hail Mary’ pass has any chance of success in court,” he said.
However, the national church supporters said the motion was filed “because actions [Lawrence and the others] they took to ‘withdraw’ the diocese from [the Episcopal Church] were outside the scope of their legal authority and violated state law,” a press statement said.
Their actions amounted to a “conspiracy” to spirit away “the assets of the diocese and ‘deprive Episcopalians loyal to the Episcopal Church of their property rights’ by manipulating the corporate entity of the diocese,” the pleading alleged.