Monday, January 5, 2009

TEC Wins in the Calif. Supreme Court

In an opinion (PDF file), the Calif. Supreme Court has decided in favor of TEC in a property dispute between the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and three disaffiliated parishes including St. James, Newport.
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.

California has some of the most "congregationalist friendly" church property laws in the nation, so this finding is of special importance. Now, on to the Virginia Supreme Court...

[tip of the hat to the Episcopal Café]

27 comments:

Leonardo Ricardo said...

GOOD, there´s a picture/tribute to Bishop Bruno at my site today, I´m so thrilled so see justice take the day...I suggest, strongly, that Bishop Orombi of Uganda go home and stay home and deal with the vile ¨witch hunt¨ that he has instigated against LGBT Anglicans/others at ALL levels of Ugandan society...Uganda a culture that has rampant corruption, war and non-stop exploiting of other human beings...Physician, HEAL THY SELF (and keep your self-righteous and poisoness activities/preaching away from us)!

A special thanks to Father Jake (and his pal Father Terry) who have given us hope, support and love from afar...thank you for all that you have done to promote REAL LIVE LGBT INTEGRITY!

NOTE: Venables, get thy hands out of the cookie jars in San Joaquin, Northern California and San Diego..scurry back home to The Anglican Province of Conealone where you have REAL work to do in order to build a ministry with INTEGRITY!

JCF said...

TBTG!

Cany said...

I hate to say it but (will):

David Virtue's head must be exploding.

Not going to check, but I just bet.

Bruno was kind in saying he will extend the hand of the church to these individual churches and seek reconciliation. That is excellent for all of us and the right thing to do. But, I really don't think--at least in the case of St. James, anyway--they are interested.

I hope they surprise me and come home.

What a great day (after my very lousy week)!

James said...

Cany - I had NOT thought of poor Mr. Virtue. I better make a dive by over there and see how he is ignoring this. :)

James said...

Nope, his top story is a diatribe against Newsweek for pointing out that the fundamentalists are draconian in modern clothing. There is just a wee passing note under "news" that the reasserts have lost the biggest battle of their lives.

Anonymous said...

I heard this while on the freeway, in between traffic reports on the pan-SoCal all-news radio station, KNX1070. They did a very good job explaining the basics in an AM-radio soundbite. Apparently the decision by the court was unanimous.

IT

David said...

Predictably, the headline over at Stand Firm says "Bad guys win."

If y'all will excuse me now, I'm to my meeting of the "Destroy Everything That's Good and Decent" Cabal...

Anonymous said...

I'm waiting for Dr PRimrose to weigh in here, especially about the ever puzzling Justice Kennard's opinion...

IT

Leonardo Ricardo said...

I took a drive over to Stand Firm and Mattyboy is shrill, prickly and selfish/childish and plain stupid to the max...part of the good news here is that his flock will soonishly be able to wander back into the Episcopal Church parish building, albeit, at least for the time being, without him and Mrs. him preaching exclusion and fear and hate...afterall, Matt is no longer a Episcopal Priest and signed up with the Central African zealots.

David said...

Heh, heh...I just noticed that a comment I saw earlier on T1:9 about this which echoed the commandment about "Thou shalt not steal" has been removed by Kendall's web elves.

Apparently comments with Biblical quotations unfavorable to the Rev. Dr. Harmon's positions have a short half-life over there ;)

James said...

David, those commandments only apply to TEC, not to the fundamentalists who are the perpetrators.

dr.primrose said...

Hi, IT. I weighed in before on a previous thread before this one was created.

Based on the court's questions at oral argument, this was a predictable result. I'm sure the schismatic parishes will file a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. I think it's unlikely that Court will want to hear this case -- it's in accord with the decisions of the courts of other states.

Justice Kennard's decision is a technical quibble around the edges. The applicable California statute permits (in accordance with a U.S. Supreme Court case) the "general" church to impose a trust on all local church property. TEC did so by express canon about 25 years ago (and, as the decision notes, it's arguable that such a trust existed before then).

There are basically two theories of law that could be applicable here. One is called the "principle of government" theory. Under that theory, the court determines whether the church's government is organized congregationally or hierarchally. In the latter case, basically the national church wins; in the former, the majority of the local congregational church wins.

The second theory is the "neutral principles of law" theory. In that case, the court looks at the applicable documents to determine ownership. The "general" church organized hierarchically wouldn't necessarily win under this theory. But under this theory, the "general" church is permitted to impose a trust on all local church property. If it does so, then it would probably always win.

The majority says that the California statute reflects the "neutral priniciples of law" theory. Kennard says that this kind of trust can be imposed only by a hierarchical church so the statute should be properly characterized as reflecting the "principle of government" theory.

Both, however, say that the statute applies, the church's trust canon applies, and the "general" church wins under this law. That being the case, frankly, it doesn't matter a bit how one characterizes the statute.

Cany said...

James: Well, Virtue will post his personal opinion (given he has more legal experience than the supremes!) and those guys will just be more liberal contagions.... LOL. Nevermind the majority of them were all appointed by concervative governors here in CA... wait for it, it will happen.

DAVID... gotta tell ya, that's funny! Amazing how things work.

So far complete silence from San Joaquin. Since Schofield isn't a TEC Bish anymore, he's out of the cut. Interesting, isn't it? And since he will have no TEC funds to be building much of anything (once HIS suit goes away, which this case surely predicts), that will be one cabal to pay attention to.

I'm thinking it so am just going to say it, and God forgive me, but:

1. WE TOLD YOU SO! NA NA NA!

2. Put your hands up and place the keys on the table...

3. Thank GOD the freeze was put and maintained on the San Joaquin Diocese accounts and funds... whew.

4. Wondering if Iker, Minns and Duncan are apoplectic yet...

Okay... so now I have to go pray for forgiveness because we know that if it crosses your mind, it crosses your heart...

Bad me.

Nonetheless... na na na na na na!

Jase said...

Yes, you are a bit bad, but your last couple of statements echo what I said. This ruling is for Dave a major tornado that will probably carry him off into obscurity which for him will be worse than any other possible thing. He must be in the news and he must be a big shot. When he is on the street, he'll retire and live off TEC funds because He has no cathedral and he loves the trappings more than anything else.

This may not be a bad sign for Duncan and Minns, but it will figure into the rulings of those state courts.

One thing is certain, the anti acid sales in three diocese have skyrocketed.

Cany said...

Oh AND.... Upi just reported this from St. James' attorneys, and I have to tell you, I laughed myself silly... talk about retrograde thinking!

"Eric Sohlgren, an attorney for St. James Parish, said the ruling might discourage local congregations from affiliating with national churches to begin with. Sohlgren said St. James night appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court."

Ohhhhh boy. Poor Eric doesn't get it.

Linkie:

http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/01/05/Court_rules_against_breakaway_churches/UPI-11301231203410/

IT said...

Thank you Primrose, laudibly clear!

IT

Cany said...

It ain't over, folks... might want to read St. James' press release on the matter. Interesting if Primrose would comment.

Go here:
http://stjamesnb.org/news/press-releases/20090105-casc-decision

JCF said...

Oh brother: that press release comes straight from BizarroWorld. 8-X

[Re their "theological differences involving the authority of Holy Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ". Translation: No Icky Fags Allowed!]

IT said...

well you can't be surprised if they are going to spin it any way they can.

listen: these are the same people who lied themselves blue in the face about icky gays and prop 8.

They aren't going to stop.

IT

klady said...

Sticking my head momentarily out of hurricane insurance coverage cases, here's my take on the "further proceedings."

Technically, the California Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the appellate court. The appellate court's opinion concluded with the following statement: "The judgments of dismissal against the diocese and the national church are both reversed. Further proceedings shall be consistent with this opinion." In other words, the appellate court did not expressly order the trial court to enter judgment on behalf of DOL and TEC. Instead it simply reversed the two judgments of dismissal granted by the trial court: (1) under the anti-SLAPP statute on the basis that it was not probable that the DOL and TEC were likely to prevail on the merits and (2) under a general demurrer, i.e. a motion to dismiss on the grounds that even if the facts alleged were true, there was no basis in the law to grant the relief requested. Therefore, depending on the original pleadings in the trial court and possibly other factors, it could be argued that as matter of procedure, St. James etal. would still be able to claim the property on the basis of disputed facts that must be resolved at trial.

The problem with that approach is that the California Supreme Court said in its opinion that it was resolving the property dispute "on the merits" which generally means that there is nothing else left to decide. Also, even if technically the Cal. Supreme Court did not order that judgment be entered for DOL/TEC, if St. James etal. did not previously plead facts or offer evidence so as to raise "a genuine issue of material fact," it/they may not be able to try to raise one now in the trial court. Therefore, although they may now attempt to argue that they should be able to raise factual issues about matters such as the Denis canon, the trial court may decide that the California Supreme Court's decision has resolved the merits of the dispute and that there is nothing left to do but enter judgment in favor of DOL/TEC and allow St. James etal. to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

Make sense? (sorry, I know I lack Dr. Primrose's ability to speak simply and clearly about this stuff). Technically there might be a procedural loophole (though it's hard to tell just on the face of the court opinions), but, unless there's something in the court record I don't know about, my guess is that it won't amount to anything. It's hard to imagine that the trial court would ignore the California Supreme Court's statement that it decided the merits of the dispute about who owns the property. Presumably the high court knew what it was saying and why it felt it was able to reach the merits under the circumstances of the case.

Anonymous said...

Yes. TEC now has to go back to the trial court and file a summary judgment motion. It does not look like there is anything left for the trial court declare but that the property is owned by TEC. There maybe some post judgement issues concerning personal property (vestments and furnishings, etc.)

Fred

Ann said...

Here is what Minns has to say:
from here

WORLD’s Lynn Vincent tracked down Anglican Bishop Martyn Minns in Nigeria to get his reaction. Minns told Lynn:

“I think [the California decision] might have a negative impact on some congregations, but most are leaving over principle, not property. Many congregations have chosen not even to contest [ownership of church] property. We’re doing this because we believe in something.”

Lynn writes that Minns said that if standing up for that belief means giving up property, most congregations are prepared to do so.

Jase said...

That's interesting; I don't know a single congregation that left and walked away from the building. Which congregations is he meaning?

David said...

Jase,

The ones in his head. You know, the ones filed right next to the opinions like "Faeries are real" and "Akinola is a Godly bishop."

That the majority of the so-called "conservatives" have the spiritual cojones to leave w/o trying to take the family silver is a myth.

If they did, I might be able to find some respect for them - but I don't see it happening in most cases.

David |Dah • veed| said...

There is a parish in the Vancouver, BC, Canada area in the Dio of New Westminster that has walked away from their building. Also in the Dio of Western NY, in the suburbs north of Buffalo, is a parish that has walked away.

But rather than many, as this lying Nigerian sock poppet is prone to say, they are few, they are far between and they are not usually the case.

MarkBrunson said...

"Bad Guys Win"

Wow.

Remember how offended and shocked - SHOCKED I tell you! - they were when I posted on my blog that they were just bad people?

Of course, I was wrong.

They're just completely delusional.

Anonymous said...

How....what's the word....."CHristian" of them.

IT