Shout out for solid work by Episcopal Church law team

The arguments presented to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) regarding Bishop Seabury Church in Connecticut have been made and SCOTUS has responded by agreeing with The Episcopal Church that there is no need to reexamine the work of the Connecticut Courts on the matter. Who knows why SCOTUS denied the petition to take on the case, but the argument put forth in the BIO (Brief in Opposition) must have helped.

Take a look at the Brief in Opposition, HERE.  It's a long document, but the core is the argument, which runs from page  1 (following the preliminary matters indicated in lower case roman numerals) to page 29.  It is an easy read, but worth the effort.

Congratulations to the legal team who put this together.


  1. I will be curious to see how long the Supremes will allow the state-by-state disparity to stand. Maybe a long time? RCs and Jews without any real personal knowledge of polity differences, etc. TEC may also just run out of litigation funds, as the Budget for 2013-15 implies. So for example:

    The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, in its decision In re Church of St. James the Less, 585 Pa. 428 (1985), held that the Dennis Canon was ineffective to impose a trust unilaterally on parish property, without the consent of the parish expressed in some clear fashion, but it also deemed ECUSA to be hierarchical.

    Again, the only court upholding a unilateral Dennis Canon trust in Texas thus far is Masterson v. Diocese of Northwest Texas, 335 S.W.3d 880 (Tex. Ct. App. 2011), but it said it would reach that result whether it deferred to ECUSA as “hierarchical” or whether it decided the case under “neutral principles.” And that case is now under review by the Texas Supreme Court, so until that Court acts, Masterson cannot be cited as the “law” in Texas.

    The decision of the California Supreme Court …was a decision overruling a demurrer by the parish to ECUSA’s complaint, which pled that ECUSA was “hierarchical.” On such appeals, the Court is required to regard all such facts pled as true and incontrovertible—so it is scarcely a “finding” that ECUSA is hierarchical.

    In Virginia, Judge Bellows cited Supreme Court precedent holding that trusts like the Dennis Canon were per se invalid under Virginia law—but he went on to find that an “implied trust”, not based on the DC, had been established through conduct over many years.
    A better criterion is to compare the States in which a national church has been permitted to impose a trust without a parish’s written consent, versus those States which have disallowed any such trust creation.

    In favor of such trusts: CA, CN, GA, MA, NC, NJ, NY

    Against such trusts: AK, AR, KY, LA, MO, NH, PA, SC, VA

    I suppose the Supremes may be able to just wait this one out. The Presbyterians are of course avoiding any future litigation by negotiating.


  2. SCM,

    As an Episcopalian and formerly an observant Jew who served on the Boards of multiple synagogues in my time Jews are quite cognizant of the concept of membership in a voluntary organization (synagogue) and the principle that when a person leaves an organization they forfeit the rights and perquisites of membership including use of the organization's property...just as when a gift is made to the synagogue one forfeits the right to control it thereafter - it is corban as Jesus himself notes....

    And irrespective of Rome's feelings about Anglican orders, they uphold the principle of hierarchy de facto...


  3. There's another church property case before the Supreme Court, but they probably won't decide whether to accept it until next term. It's involves a Presbyterian church in Louisiana. In this case, though, the state court ruled for the local congregation and held that the PCUSA equivalent to the Dennis Canon was not sufficient to establish a trust in favor of the national church. It'll be interesting to see whether the court will accept this case when it has turned down the others. My guess is probably not unless they are convinced that there's a federal constitutional issue and that it's important enough for them to mess with. Since property issues are primarily a matter of state law, convincing them wont be easy.

  4. The point was very basic. If instead of six RCs on the Supreme Court there were six Episcopalians or Presbyterians or Methodists, one might have seen a different instinct. But I am not confident that the Supreme Court will insert itself in this and maybe it shouldn't. It may have a high tolerance for state-by-state disparity, such as we now have it. The Texas Supreme Court case may alter that, but equally, it may not.



OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.