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Episcopal Church confident it will win Fort Worth fight: Anglican Ink, September 12, 2013 September 13, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Fort Worth, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church.
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The Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Rayford High

The Episcopal Church will prevail in its court battle with Bishop Jack L. Iker and the Diocese of Fort Worth, the Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth, the Rt. Rev. Rayford B. High, Jr., said this week, arguing the doctrine of neutral principles of law favors their cause.

On 9 Sept 2013 Bishop High and members of the diocesan standing committee along with the national church appointed trustees of the Corporation of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth and officers for the Fund for the Endowment of the Episcopate met with their lawyers to review the Texas Supreme Court’s 30 August 2013 decision in No. 11-0265Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, et al. v. The Episcopal Church, et al.

In the Fort Worth case the Court by a vote of 5 to 4 overturned a Tarrant County trial court decision that awarded the property of the Diocese of Fort Worth to the national Episcopal Church and its local allies.  The Supreme Court held the trial court erred in deferring to the denominational polity of the national church. The ruling nullified the Episcopal Church’s Dennis Canon in Texas, holding the national church’s property rules had no legal effect in the state.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Second legal blow for TEC in South Carolina case: The Church of England Newspaper, February 20, 2013. March 15, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, South Carolina, The Episcopal Church.
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Lawyers for the Episcopal Church have conceded that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s claim that while people may leave the Episcopal Church, dioceses and congregations may not, is without merit.

The concession, Canon lawyer Allan Haley reports, comes in their acquiescence to the filing of a Temporary Injunction issued in the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina court case, forbidding the national church or its allies from using the name, symbols or seal of the diocese.

Entered with the consent of attorneys representing the national church, the 31 Jan 2013 order by Judge Diane Goodstein replaces a 23 Jan Temporary Restraining Order, effectively making permanent the ban that forbid the national church and its surrogates from claiming to act on behalf of the diocese.

Mr. Haley noted the injunction remains in effect until Judge Goodstein agrees to modify it, or dissolve it, for good cause shown.

The injunction “maintains the status quo ante until the case can be tried,” he said, and “keeps the parties in the same position they were before the dispute between them arose — it is designed to prevent one of the parties from unilaterally moving the goalposts before the game can be played. At the end of the trial, the court will decide either to make preliminary injunction permanent, or else to dissolve it once and for all.”

Mr. Haley said the national church’s “capitulation”, by agreeing to the injunction, establishes “facts on the ground”.

“There is a legally cognizable “Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” whose legal existence began in 1785.”

“The remnant Episcopalian group may not either assume its name, or claim to be the same religious non-profit corporation under South Carolina law.”

The “Diocese has actually separated itself in law from the Episcopal Church. It exists, under its own State’s laws, wholly separate and apart from the Church of which it formerly was a member.”

The loyalist group will be a “brand-new religious entity, whose existence was not a legal reality until it met and organized itself on January 26, 2013.”

These “facts on the ground” are “fatal” to the argument put forward by the national church that people may leave, but dioceses may not, Mr. Haley said. “South Carolina is living proof of the fact that Dioceses and their associated parishes may indeed, as is their constitutional right under the First Amendment, leave.”

“We are gratified that The Episcopal Church has consented to a temporary injunction protecting the identity of our Diocese and its parishes,” said Jim Lewis, Canon of the Diocese. “We pray that sentiment fuels the prompt and reasonable resolution we all seek.

Thomas Tisdale, chancellor of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina – the faction in South Carolina loyal to the national church — did not respond to our queries.

Virginia Supreme Court rejects Episcopal Church property canon: The Church of England Newspaper, November 11, 2012 p 7. November 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Property Litigation, The Episcopal Church, Virginia.
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The Virginia Supreme Court has refused to overturn a lower court decision dismissing the Dennis Canon – the national church’s controversial property laws that seek to impose a trust on congregational property in favor of the national church and local diocese.

On 26 Oct 2012 the court announced that a three judge writ panel had granted the petition of The Falls Church to hear its appeal in The Episcopal Church v. The Falls Church.  However, it also let stand the lower court ruling that the Dennis Canon has no legal effect in property disputes in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

On 16 Oct, attorneys for the Northern Virginia congregation were permitted 10 minutes of oral argument to state why they believed the court should review their case.  The church asked the court to “review the entire lower court decision for failing to follow U.S. and Virginia Supreme Court decisions applying ‘neutral principles’ of secular property and contract law to resolve disputes about church property. Our Petition also sought review on several other grounds, including some specific to the Historic Church building, where our deed pre-dates the existence of both the Episcopal Diocese and the entire Episcopal denomination, and to the ‘non-consecrated’ property.”

The Attorney General of Virginia also filed a brief with the Supreme Court in support of The Falls Church asking it to review the “lower court’s decision to override the expressed desires of a substantial majority of our donors that their contributions should not go to the Episcopal denomination or Diocese,” the parish said.

In a statement released on 30 Oct 2012, a spokesman for the Diocese of Virginia said they were disappointed by the court’s decision.  “Regardless of this development, this diocese looks toward the future with hope as we continue to serve this world in need,” said diocesan secretary Henry Burt.

Canon lawyer Allan Haley observed the diocese’s appeal sought to give legal effect to denominational property trusts.  “By its order, the writ panel expressly refused to consider the Diocese’s and ECUSA’s cross-assignments of this claimed error, so Judge Bellows’ ruling on that specific point will stand,” Mr. Haley said.

This “means that the Dennis Canon has no effect in Virginia. Instead, according to Judge Bellows, Virginia courts will look to other indicia of ‘proprietary interests in’,” such as actual ownership and control over parish property in adjudicating these claims, he said.