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Clergy discipline not subject to civil review, Australian court rules: The Church of England Newspaper, January 17, 2014 January 27, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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The South Australia Supreme Court has ruled that clergy discipline is an internal affair, not subject to civil court review. In Harrington and Ors v Coote and Anor [2013] SASCFC 154 the court held disciplinary canons were a “consensual contract” between clergy and the church, and that the Australian Church’s Professional Standards Board had the authority to investigate and discipline clergy.

The 23 December 2013 ruling ended an 8-year legal battle waged by the former Archdeacon of the Murray, the Ven. Peter Coote, who was dismissed from office in 2007 for sexual misconduct.

In his ruling Chief Justice Chris Kourakis held the constitution, canons and rules of the church were binding under civil law on the bishops, clergy and laity in matters relating to property.

The right to appoint a member of clergy to a benefice and the licence held by a member of the clergy to conduct spiritual ceremonies on church property were “matters relating to property” under the Act, he held. Having voluntarily agreed to submit to the constitution and canons of the church, Archdeacon Coote could not seek to circumvent the process through the secular courts.

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