jump to navigation

Court questioned on law: CEN 7.10.09 p 7. July 20, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation.

CEN Logo

A Los Angeles-area parish has asked the United States Supreme Court to decide if canon law trumps civil law in church property disputes.

On June 24, St James Anglican Church in Newport Beach, California, a member of the Western Diocese of the newly formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the US Supreme Court in Washington, asking the federal court to overturn the January ruling of the California Supreme Court that allowed “hierarchical” churches to create a lien interest on parish property without first seeking the permission of the parish.

Constitutional scholar John Eastman will serve as lead counsel for the congregation and former US Attorney General Edwin Meese will serve as co-counsel.

St James will argue that the California court’s interpretation of state law violates the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of religion. California has given a “preference to certain kinds of churches that claim to be hierarchical, that other churches and non-religious associations are not entitled to, and that violates the establishment clause,” Dr. Eastman said.

“We will also be arguing that denying the local church community their ability to organize and hold title to their own building and conduct their religious services in a manner they see fit, this California decision violates their right to the free exercise of religion,” he added.

Canon law commentator A.S. Haley stated the issue before the court was whether the California Supreme Court erred in interpreting federal court precedent and the California Corporations Code by “impermissibly” giving preference to “self-proclaimed hierarchical denominations” like the Episcopal Church over other churches. By taking upon itself the authority to decide the disputed question whether the Episcopal Church is “hierarchical,” the court intrudes into “areas of religious doctrine and polity in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise clauses,” he said.

Less than one hundred of the thousands of petitions submitted to the US Supreme Court are heard each term, and a decision whether the court will entertain the appeal will be made by the first Monday of October.


1. Shared Items from around the web « Quo Vadis - July 21, 2009

[…] Court questioned on law: CEN 7.10.09 p 7. […]

Sorry comments are closed for this entry

%d bloggers like this: