Jeff Miller–SC Supreme Court ruling against Diocese of South Carolina threatens religious freedom

In addition, the majority of the Supreme Court made this decision on the fate of over $500 million of property without a proper factual review of whether the various parishes actually acceded to the canons of the Episcopal Church. For example, there is no evidence that St. Philip’s ever did so. If the present decision stands, as one dissenting opinion states, this case will be “nothing less than judicial sanction of the confiscation of church property.”

In short, by judicial fiat, the majority opinion imposed on a group of South Carolina churches, a standard of property law that it has not, and would not, impose on any secular organization. It does not take a legal scholar to recognize the danger this court action creates for religious freedom, and freedom in general. For these reasons, motions for reconsideration have been filed.

Sadly, the most serious threat to freedom comes from the Supreme Court’s failure to give St. Philip’s and the other parties a fair, unbiased hearing. The Supreme Court justice who provided the deciding vote to the majority is an active member of the Episcopal Church. She, along with her husband, actively participated in the events that gave rise to this lawsuit.

The South Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge disclose any potential conflict of interest and then disqualify themself from the case unless the parties to the litigation agree to waive the conflict. That did not happen.

St. Philip’s and others have filed a motion for recusal which is supported by strong affidavits from two experts – a national and a South Carolina expert on legal and judicial ethics. These highly respected authorities conclude that judicial disqualification is necessary.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture