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Virginia cases back in court: The Church of England Newspaper, March 2, 2012, p 5. March 8, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of North America, Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, Virginia.
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Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli

The Attorney General of Virginia has filed a motion in the property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese and seven breakaway congregations that have affiliated with the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) break, asking the court to reconsider its January ruling that all property donated to the churches prior to 31 January 2007 be turned over to the diocese.

On 22 Feb 2012, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli filed a brief in support of a motion filed by the congregations, asking Judge Randy Bellows to reconsider his decision ordering all property be turned over to the diocese as donor intent governed the disposition of the charitable donations under Virginia law.

Beginning in 2003 the seven congregations permitted their members to designate whether their congregations may be passed on to the national church or the diocese.  By 2006 almost all of the donations received by the congregations were restricted by the donors for the use of the congregation.  This donor intent governed the disposition of property, the attorney general argued.

In its 27 February response the diocese argued the congregations’ argument had no “legal or factual merit.”

Donor intent has no place in “a neutral principles of law analysis,” the diocese argued, and there is “no violation of religious freedom because no donor is being or has been compelled or coerced to contribute” to the diocese or national church.

Parish spokesman Jim Oakes stated the “core issue” under review was the “right of donors to restrict the use of their own gifts to the church of their choice.”

The parishes believed this was a “religious liberty issue at its core as the courts are not lawfully able to coerce contributions to a specific religious entity against the wishes of the donors. We ask that the court honor the gift restrictions designated by individuals that have faithfully offered their contributions to these congregations,” said Mr. Oakes.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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