05 January 2009

Breaking news: TEC wins in California

At Ten O'clock today, a decision was released by the California Supreme Court that says the diocese owns the property. It recognized that local parishes in question have always submitted themselves to the C&C of the larger church.
Applying the neutral principles of law approach, we conclude that the general church, not the local church, owns the property in question. Although the deeds to the property have long been in the name of the local church, that church agreed from the beginning of its existence to be part of the greater church and to be bound by its governing documents. These governing documents make clear that church property is held in trust for the general church and may be controlled by the local church only so long as that local church remains a part of the general church. When it disaffiliated from the general church, the local church did not have the right to take the church property with it ...

[At the time of application to the diocese] The members’ handwritten application “promise[d] and declare[d] that the said Parish shall be forever held under, and conform to and be bound by, the Ecclesiastical authority of the Bishop of Los Angeles, and of his successor in office, the Constitution and Canons of the [Episcopal Church], and the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of Los Angeles.”
There is additional bad news for the parishes involved, too
We conclude that this action is not subject to an anti-SLAPP motion. Although protected activity arguably lurks in the background of this case, the actual dispute concerns property ownership rather than any such protected activity. Accordingly, this action is not one “arising from” protected activity within the meaning of Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, subdivision (b)(1). Hence, that provision does not
And there is a major set back for other malcontents:
As stated in one of the out-of-state cases involving the same Episcopal Church "[t]he individual defendants are free to dissociate themselves from [the parish and the Episcopal Church] and to affiliate themselves with another religious denomination. No court can interfere with or control such an exercise of conscience. The problem lies in defendants' efforts to take the church property with them. This they may not d
What a wonderful 12th Day present for the diocese of LA and for TEC in general!

The full decision is here in PDF format. Make sure to read pages 20 - 22. Given the vitriolic nature of the money people involved at the parish level, one might expect them to appeal to theUS Supreme Court.

But, most likely not.

The California court relied heavily on a previous US Supreme Court decision (Jones v. Wolf (1979) 443 U.S. 595, 597.) In my opinion, which won't even purchase you a cup of tea, the Supreme Court is very unlikely to revisit and overturn a decision unless it involves civil rights. Wayward, what's your opinion?

This was only the clearing of a small rain cloud for the Diocese of Los Angeles. But the prevailing wind is blowing a major hurricane northward over Schofieldland.

Keep praying for our sisters and brothers in San Joaquin - although we hear strains of "the distant triumph song" it's not over just yet.