Category : Law & Legal Issues

(ITV) Police apologise to minister after shutting down legal church service in Milton Keynes

Police have apologised to a church minister after officers interrupted a lawful service in Milton Keynes and told him he would be prosecuted for breaking Covid regulations.

Pastor Daniel Mateola normally preaches to a full church, but since communal worship is banned under Covid rules, his congregation gets support from online worship instead.

Services are filmed professionally and streamed online, but last Friday worship was interrupted by the police who said there were too many people present.

To avoid confrontation, the church sent their five musicians home but police said the film crew was too big and called seven more officers as back up.

Pastor Daniel said: “It was very challenging, very intimidating, at one point a little bit scary too. At one point I was thinking, what’s going on here?

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Posted in England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Police/Fire, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Pandemic likely to increase slavery and trafficking, mission warns

The world must act now to prevent a surge in global slavery under the conditions created by the coronavirus pandemic, the International Justice Mission (IJM) has warned today, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.

Covid-19 is exacerbating poverty and the circumstances that cause people to fall into bonded labour and servitude, the IJM, a Christian anti-trafficking charity, has said. Furthermore, the lockdowns that many governments have imposed in an effort to control the virus have led to a marked increase in online sexual exploitation of children, as adults in the West who are restricted to their homes have spent more time on the internet, facilitating the abuse of children elsewhere.

Estimates from the World Bank suggest that 49 million extra people will be forced into extreme poverty as a result of the pandemic. The IJM said that it had already observed people-traffickers trying to exploit this by offering false job offers or loans to entrap vulnerable people who had lost their income because of the virus.

The IJM’s principal adviser on modern slavery, Peter Williams, said that evidence suggested that certain vulnerabilities were key key, and that these — loss of income, family medical emergencies, isolation — were “characteristic of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on people in poverty”.

In the developing world, public institutions that were needed to combat trafficking and modern slavery — such as local police forces, social services, and the courts — were being put under unprecedented pressure by the pandemic, Mr Williams said.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(NYT Op-ed) Michael W. McConnell and Max Raskin: The Supreme Court Was Right to Block Cuomo’s Religious Restrictions

During a public health emergency, individual freedoms can be curtailed where necessary to protect against the spread of disease. Most of this authority is at the state and local, not the federal, level. But when public health measures intrude on civil liberties — not just religious exercise, but other constitutional rights — judges will insist that the measures be nonarbitrary, nondiscriminatory and no more restrictive than the facts and evidence demand.

The real disagreement between Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer and the majority was over a technical though important detail. This disagreement made the court look more fractured than it actually was. Just days before the decision, on Nov. 19, the governor’s lawyers sent the court a letter stating that he had redrawn the red and orange zones in Brooklyn, conveniently putting the churches and synagogues that were the focus of the litigation into the more permissive yellow zone. The letter cited no reasons for the reclassification and offered no assurance that it might not happen again, at a moment’s notice, with no more explanation than this time.

The court majority regarded the governor’s about-face as too fleeting and changeable to derail a decision on the merits. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Breyer, by contrast, concluded that the change eliminated any need for the court to intervene, at least for now. That is a reasonable position (though we disagree with it) — and it does not indicate any fundamental disagreement with the five justices in the majority about the need to protect civil liberties even in a time of emergency.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(The Hill) Andrew McCarthy–For Thanksgiving, the Supreme Court upholds religious liberty

The majority concluded that the restrictions are not “neutral” or of “general applicability.” This finding is key in the court’s religious-liberty jurisprudence. Restrictions that apply to everyone and do not target religion but incidentally affect religious observance (e.g., a general ban on peyote use that happens to burden the rites of some religious groups) are presumptively valid. By contrast, restrictions that single out religion — i.e., that are not neutral or generally applicable — are subject to the “strict scrutiny” analysis that the court applies to burdens on fundamental freedoms. That means the state, to justify its restrictions, must show that they are narrowly tailored to serve a compelling governmental interest.

Here, there is no gainsaying that the state has a compelling interest in stemming the spread of a potentially deadly infectious disease. Yet, the court observed that “it is hard to see how the challenged regulations can be regarded as narrowly tailored.”

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Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(WSJ) Some Churches Push Back Against Coronavirus Restrictions

Religious leaders in Europe and the U.S. are pushing back harder against coronavirus restrictions than during the pandemic’s first wave, invoking their right to religious freedom and arguing churches are safe.

Protests in France and Britain, where bans on communal worship are now in place, have brought governments to the negotiating table with religious leaders. The Catholic diocese of Brooklyn, one of the largest in the U.S., is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court against numerical limits on worshipers.

Church leaders were largely deferential during the spring lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19. Many are taking a different tack now, convinced churches shouldn’t be treated more strictly than secular activities.

“We have demonstrated, by our action, that places of worship and public worship can be made safe from Covid transmission,” wrote a group of British faith leaders to Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

The Federal Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit Court in Richmond grants Anglican Diocese of SC’s motion for a stay in the trademark litigation with TECSC and TEC.

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

(W Post) Nigerian protesters say security forces fired on them, fueling global outrage

Global outrage mounted Wednesday after security forces in Africa’s largest city opened fire into a crowd of protesters, deepening unrest spurred by anger at Nigerian police.

Ten people died and dozens were wounded after uniformed men took aim at demonstrators the night before at a Lagos toll gate plaza, Amnesty International said, a clash captured from multiple angles on social media.

The violence followed two weeks of largely peaceful demonstrations that prompted Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the undercover police unit at the center of the dispute and that critics have long blasted as abusive.

But hundreds returned to the streets Wednesday — despite a 24-hour curfew enforced by riot officers — and thousands more joined solidarity marches in other countries, saying past attempts at ending police brutality in Nigeria had fallen short. Protesters in Lagos, a metropolis of approximately 20 million, said they would not stop until wrongdoers in law enforcement are brought to justice.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Violence

(NYT) The Police Can Probably Break Into Your Phone

In a new Apple ad, a man on a city bus announces he has just shopped for divorce lawyers. Then a woman recites her credit card number through a megaphone in a park. “Some things shouldn’t be shared,” the ad says, “iPhone helps keep it that way.”

Apple has built complex encryption into iPhones and made the devices’ security central to its marketing pitch.

That, in turn, has angered law enforcement. Officials from the F.B.I. director to rural sheriffs have argued that encrypted phones stifle their work to catch and convict dangerous criminals. They have tried to force Apple and Google to unlock suspects’ phones, but the companies say they can’t. In response, the authorities have put their own marketing spin on the problem. Law enforcement, they say, is “going dark.”

Yet new data reveals a twist to the encryption debate that undercuts both sides: Law enforcement officials across the nation regularly break into encrypted smartphones.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Science & Technology

(WSJ) Nigerian Protesters Shut Down Africa’s Largest City, Escalating Standoff With Government

Tens of thousands of protesters brought the largest city in Africa to a standstill on Monday, mounting the biggest demonstration in a two-week campaign against police brutality and escalating a standoff with a government that has pledged to restore order.

Groups of placard-waving protesters blocked major roads across Lagos, Nigeria’s sprawling commercial capital and home to an estimated 20 million people. The city’s Ibadan expressway, the country’s busiest road, was blocked by groups chanting: “We want change.” Protesters closed off the city’s airport and stormed the terminal. In a city infamous for hourslong traffic jams, columns of Lagos residents could be seen walking along emptied streets and causeways.

The Lagos protests were the largest of a series of demonstrations on Monday across the West African nation of 206 million people that appeared to significantly raise the temperature between demonstrators and the government.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Police/Fire, Politics in General

(Church Times) Churches must challenge the systems that cultivate modern slavery, webinar in Wales hears

Church communities and people of faith must challenge the systems and structures that have allowed modern slavery to become the fastest-growing crime around the world, a panel of international experts and activists told a webinar hosted by the Church in Wales in advance of Modern Slavery Day on Sunday.

The speakers concluded that it had to be about more than raising awareness of something in which services and products used every day were implicated: manufacturing supply chains, casual labour, and sexual and criminal exploitation. Statutory systems were fragmented and not working well, despite the Modern Slavery Act and the introduction of the National Referral Mechanism, they said; “pitifully small” numbers of perpetrators were being brought to justice.

An estimated 40.3 million men, women, and children worldwide are estimated to be trapped in modern slavery, among them potentially up to 136,000 victims in the UK alone. “We are losing the battle,” the former Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, founder of the C of E’s Clewer Initiative on modern slavery, said. He described it as “the sharp end of inequality”. There was a “massively strange silence” among Christian people, he said, in a climate in which consumers wanted cheap goods and claimed rights without responsibilities.

Awareness was not enough, panellists said. Unity was the greatest weapon against trafficking, said Commissioner Christine MacMillan, who is the founder and director of the Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission, and chairs the World Evangelical Alliance’s Global Human Trafficking Task Force.

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Posted in Anthropology, Church of Wales, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Violence

(BBC) Church of England failures ‘allowed child sexual abusers to hide’

The Church of England failed to protect children from sexual abuse, and created a culture where abusers “could hide”, a report has concluded.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse’s report says the Church’s failure to respond consistently to abuse victims added to their trauma.

It added that alleged perpetrators were often given more support than victims.

The Church said it felt “shame” over the failings detailed in the “shocking” report.

The report, which is the latest in a series of publications from the IICSA, said 390 clergy members and other church leaders were convicted of abuse between the 1940s and 2018.

The Church defended alleged perpetrators instead of protecting children and young people from sexual predators, the report added.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Violence

(CLJ) Michael Baxter–Religious Freedom: A Non-Partisan Principle for Hyper-Partisan Times

In the coming weeks, with Amy Coney Barrett now nominated to the Supreme Court, we are sure to hear a lot about “religious freedom.” Much of what we hear and read will link religious freedom to the conservative politics of the Republican Party. But the principle of religious freedom is by no means the sole domain of “conservative politics,” nor is it owned and operated by Republicans alone.

It is a non-partisan principle, a two-edged sword, so to speak, that cuts against and scrambles the nice, neat categories of the hyper-partisan politics of our day. This becomes clear if we look at its recent emergence onto the political scene and then at the full range of its potential applications.

The principle of religious freedom was set forth, of course, when the framers enshrined it in the First Amendment of the Constitution. There it stands as the so-called First Freedom, taking the lead among a litany of freedoms (speech, the press, assembly, and petition). It is expressed in the words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

This brief formulation has vexed lawyers, judges, and legal scholars ever since, as they try to balance its two clauses, the establishment clause and the free exercise clause. But two centuries of legal argument took on a special urgency rather recently, when the Supreme Court handed down its notorious, much disputed Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon, v. Smith (1990).

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(Reuters) Blasphemy convictions spark Nigerian debate over sharia law

Fuad Adeyemi, an imam in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, respects those who believe that a 22-year-old man accused of sharing a blasphemous message on WhatsApp should be punished. But he thinks the death sentence is too harsh.

He was referring to a ruling handed to Yahaya Aminu Sharif by a sharia court in the northern state of Kano in August. On the same day, the court sentenced a 13-year-old boy, Omar Farouq, to 10 years in prison, also for blasphemy.

The sentences caused an international outcry and sparked a broader debate in Nigeria about the role of Islamic law in a country roughly evenly split between a predominantly Muslim north and mainly Christian south.

“They should review the judgment … and reduce the punishment,” said Adeyemi, clad in a white robe and sitting on the concrete floor of a half-built Abuja mosque where moments earlier he had led more than a dozen men in prayer.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Nigeria, Religion & Culture

(NPR) 2 Louisville Police Officers Shot After Charges In Breonna Taylor Case Spark Protests

The chief said that under the tense circumstances following the indictment by the grand jury Wednesday, he is “very concerned for the safety of [his] officers.”

Hundreds of protesters swiftly began demonstrations calling for justice for Breonna Taylor after a grand jury decided to indict just one of the three Louisville Metropolitan Police officers who fired nearly two dozen bullets into her apartment, killing the 26-year-old during a no-knock raid.

City and state officials, who have been expecting a decision from the grand jury all week after months of outrage and anticipation, were braced for widespread protests, preemptively calling for reinforcements from the National Guard.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Race/Race Relations, Urban/City Life and Issues

(WSJ) Vatican Pushes Against Growing Acceptance of Euthanasia

The Vatican condemned the spreading international acceptance of euthanasia and assisted suicide, including in some traditionally Catholic countries in Europe, in a strongly worded document that reasserts traditional teaching.

“Euthanasia is an act of homicide that no end can justify and that does not tolerate any form of complicity or active or passive collaboration,” the Vatican’s doctrinal office said in a document published Tuesday and expressly approved by Pope Francis. “It is gravely unjust to enact laws that legalize euthanasia or justify and support suicide, invoking a false right to choose a death improperly characterized as respectable only because it is chosen,” the document says.

Spain’s Parliament is considering a law that would make the country the fourth in Europe to legalize euthanasia, after the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. Legislators in neighboring Portugal are considering similar proposals. In February, Germany’s highest court overturned a law banning assisted suicide.

Euthanasia is the painless killing of a patient suffering from a physical or mental disease. In assisted suicide, patients administer lethal drugs to themselves under medical supervision.

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Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pope Francis, Roman Catholic, Theology

(NPR) Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Champion Of Gender Equality, Dies At 87

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the demure firebrand who in her 80s became a legal, cultural and feminist icon, died Friday. The Supreme Court announced her death, saying the cause was complications from metastatic cancer of the pancreas.

The court, in a statement, said Ginsburg died at her home in Washington, D.C., surrounded by family. She was 87.

“Our nation has lost a justice of historic stature,” Chief Justice John Roberts said. “We at the Supreme Court have lost a cherished colleague. Today we mourn but with confidence that future generations will remember Ruth Bader Ginsburg as we knew her, a tireless and resolute champion of justice.”

Architect of the legal fight for women’s rights in the 1970s, Ginsburg subsequently served 27 years on the nation’s highest court, becoming its most prominent member. Her death will inevitably set in motion what promises to be a nasty and tumultuous political battle over who will succeed her, and it thrusts the Supreme Court vacancy into the spotlight of the presidential campaign.

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Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Law & Legal Issues, Supreme Court, Women

Must not Miss 9/11 Video: Welles Crowther, The Man Behind the Red Bandana

The Man Behind the Red Bandana from Drew Gallagher on Vimeo.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Marriage & Family, Police/Fire, Sports, Terrorism

(Unherd) Justin Webb–Is The American Left looking increasingly extreme?

If you are searching for a view of the intellectual and moral slack the American far-Left is cutting itself, look no further than gentle old National Public Radio. More than a decade ago, when I lived in the US, NPR was genially Left-of-centre, but not aggressively so. Last week it revealed itself to be — in the eyes of many Americans — quite unhinged, publishing an interview with Vicky Osterweil, the author of a book called In Defense of Looting.

Osterweil made two assertions, the first being that looting is justified because it attacks the idea of private property and the world of work: “So you get to the heart of that property relation, and demonstrate that without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free.”

The second is that stealing from shops is part of the wider movement for change in America: “Looting strikes at the heart of property, of whiteness and of the police,” she said: “It gets to the very root of the way those three things are interconnected. And also it provides people with an imaginative sense of freedom and pleasure and helps them imagine a world that could be. And I think that’s a part of it that doesn’t really get talked about — that riots and looting are experienced as sort of joyous and liberatory.”

None of this is robustly challenged, and this was not some sociology professor playing with edgy thoughts on campus — it was an interview conducted and disseminated by one of the most important mainstream broadcasters in the USA, a non-profit devoted to ideals of impartiality and truth.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Police/Fire, Politics in General, Race/Race Relations, Theology, Violence

Brand new TEC in SC Diocese’s motion for reconsideration in Lawsuit with Historic Anglican Diocese of South Carolina is denied

Monday, July 13 Judge Dickson denied the TECSC Motion for Reconsideration of his ruling.  They promptly filed their Notice of Appeal and a further motion requesting the S.C. Supreme Court to take the appeal directly.

The Diocese continues to give thanks for the clarity of Judge Dickson’s ruling and forward progress towards the conclusion of this litigation.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(BP) Supreme Court delivers 2 religious liberty wins

The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed in two 7-2 rulings Wednesday (July 8) that churches and religious organizations are free to make employment and health insurance decisions based on their convictions.

In one ruling, the justices reiterated their support for a “ministerial exception” that enables churches and other religious bodies to hire and fire based on their beliefs. They had ruled unanimously in 2012 in favor of such an exception. In consolidated cases, two Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles chose not to renew contracts for two fifth-grade teachers based on what they said was poor performance.
In its other opinion, the high court upheld federal rules that protect the rights of employers with religious or moral objections to the Obama-era, abortion/contraception mandate. The opinion came after a seven-year legal battle by the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic order that serves the poverty-stricken elderly, to gain an exemption from the requirement.

The Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) commended both decisions as victories for religious freedom.

“If a religious organization cannot recruit leaders who agree with the beliefs and practices of those organizations, then there can be no true religious freedom. The Court recognized that today,” ERLC President Russell Moore said in a written statement of the “ministerial exception” opinion.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

Brand New Episcopal Church (TEC) Diocese in South Carolina Asks Court to Reconsider its recent Ruling

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Posted in * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts

(1st Things) Carl R. Trueman–The Road to Bostock

It is here that Farrow’s book is so singularly helpful. The essay “Autonomy: Sic transit anima ad infernum” is worth the price of the book all by itself. In it he traces with both remarkable depth and enviable conciseness the rise of the modern self: the autonomous self-creator to whom reality must bend or, better still, for whom reality is merely what works best for the individual concerned. With roots in Rousseau and Nietzsche, this self lies behind Anthony Kennedy’s oft-cited fantasy of selfhood in Casey and lurks in the background of all the subsequent Supreme Court rulings on matters involving sexuality, up to and including Bostock. Indeed, Farrow makes the necessary point:

The autonomous will really has no choice but to attack the body as well as the mind. For the body is the most obvious locus of the given, the most stubborn impediment to the power claimed by the will.

Transgenderism is the logical outcome of all this. In fact, the annihilation of gender as a stable category tout court is the logical outcome—a point that seems to have eluded Justice Gorsuch, who apparently wants to keep his binary categories while not realizing the metaphysical depths of the revolution he has now placed into law.

The shock and awe surrounding the Bostock ruling perhaps indicates that the old task of apologetics is now being oddly reversed. The pressing pastoral need of the hour for the church is not to explain the faith to the world but rather first to explain the world to the faithful. If Richard Rorty’s famous quip—the truth is what your contemporaries let you get away with saying—works as a descriptive rather than prescriptive principle in terms of cultural dynamics, in terms of which arguments work and which do not, then it behooves us to ask in what kind of culture the stated logic of the Bostock decision has come to make sense. If Christians do not understand the wider context, then they will continue to underestimate the true depth of the cultural problem, be perplexed at the speed of apparent change, and be disturbed by new developments. And that will make it very hard to navigate this world as both good citizens and good stewards of the gospel.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Other Faiths, Secularism, Supreme Court

Anglican Unscripted 606 – Legal Victories

Kevin Kallsen and AS Haley talk about the latest court victories for the ACNA. And, some of the challenges the US Supreme Court’s recent decisions will bring religious communities.

Posted in Anthropology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

The Brand New TEC Diocese in South Carolina gives a (very revealing) response to Judge Edgar W. Dickson’s ruling

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Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, TEC Conflicts, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Anglican Dio of SC) South Carolina Circuit Court Rules in Favor of the Diocese and Parishes

In his ruling, Judge Dickson made several important conclusions of law. Chief among them was his ruling on the central issue of interpreting the Collective Opinions. As he noted in quoting former Chief Justice Toal, “The Court’s collective opinions in this matter give rise to great uncertainty, so that we have given little to no collective guidance in this case or in church property disputes like this going forward.” He concluded that, “This court must distill the five separate opinions, identify the court’s intent and produce a logical directive.” With respect to parish property, the law of this case follows the precedent of All Saints Parish, Waccamaw (2009). In his deciding opinion, Chief Justice Beatty, “found that the Dennis Canon, standing alone, does not unequivocally convey an intention to transfer ownership of property to the national church…” In accordance with established South Carolina law, establishment of a trust interest must meet the standard of being “legally cognizable”. The Diocese has argued that there is no such evidence of accession to the Dennis Canon that meets this standard and Judge Dickson concluded, “This court finds that no parish expressly acceded to the Dennis Canon” and “defendants failed to prove creation of a trust.” He further concluded, “TEC’s argument that their unilaterally drafted Dennis Canon created a trust under South Carolina law is rejected.”

In the case of the Trustees and St. Christopher Camp and Conference Center, Judge Dickson affirmed that under the All Saints ruling that a non-profit corporation which follows the correct steps to sever its association with another entity does so with all its property interests intact. The Collective Opinions found that the Diocese and Parishes properly disassociated. As Judge Dickson explains, “Applying neutral principles of law, this court finds the Diocese and Parishes properly disassociated and control their real and personal property with any improvements thereon. Following the narrowest grounds of the majority in the Collective opinions, this Court finds that Camp St. Christopher should remain as titled in the Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina as stated in the 1951 deed.”

On the final matter of registered trademarks, Judge Dickson said “This court finds that the Federal Court has jurisdiction over matters related to trademarks, intellectual property and service marks,” Those matters are currently on appeal before the Federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Speaking on behalf of the Diocese, the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis observed, “The Diocese welcomes the clarity of Judge Dickson’s interpretation of the Supreme Court’s Collective Opinion. By twice denying petitions by TEC and TECSC to prevent Judge Dickson from completing this task, the Supreme Court has clearly signaled its desire to resolve these issues. We remain confident that our ability to disassociate from TEC, with all our legal rights intact, will continue to be affirmed.”

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Posted in * South Carolina, Church History, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture

A S Haley–South Carolina Court on Remand Vindicates Bishop Lawrence and His Parishes

Judge Dickson does an excellent job of laying out these conclusions at the close of his Order:

The neutral principles of property, corporate, and trust law [in South Carolina] have been consistent for years. Lawyers and judges understand those principles and are competent to decide issued based upon them. Additionally, neutral principles of law avoids all religious discussion, including which party is “true” to their denomination.

This is a property case. A decision on property ownership is usually governed by the title to real estate—the deed. In this case, all the Plaintiff Parishes hold title to their property in fee simple absolute.

Ownership may be effected by trust: a clear, convincing legal statement of a trust—not a promise, not a pledge, not polity. This Court concludes that there is no signed writing by the Plaintiffs expressly acceding to the Dennis Canon. This Court concludes there is no evidence establishing an intent by the Plaintiff Parishes to create a trust in favor of Defendants nor did the Plaintiffs ever vote on or consider acceding specifically to the Dennis Canon. Statements of allegiance are insufficient to establish an expressed trust. TEC unilaterally drafted the Dennis Canon. Since TEC and TECSC are not the owners of the Parish properties, they cannot establish a trust for themselves simply by declaring that they are also the beneficiary of the trust. The Dennis Canon by itself does not create a “legally cognizable” trust nor does [it] transfer title to property.

What does this mean on the ground? Again, Judge Dickson — in contrast to the indeterminate and scattered holdings of the South Carolina Supreme Court, whose “Collective Opinions” he was forced to parse and make sense of — leaves nothing unclear:

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the thirty-six Plaintiff Parishes be, and hereby are, declared and affirmed as the title owners in fee simple absolute of their respective parish real properties, with improvements thereon and their accompanying personal property.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that certified true copies of this order shall be filed in the Clerk of Court’s Office in the county where each parish is located.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Defendants herein have no interest in the Plaintiff Parishes’ properties.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that ownership to Camp St. Christopher remain as titled to the Trustees of the Corporation as stated in the 1951 deed.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the Federal Court has jurisdiction over all matters related to trademarks, service marks, and intellectual property.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the request for the Appointment of a Special Master, the Petition for an Accounting are denied.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.

Your Curmudgeon does not gloat or boast, but tries to keep things humble and accurate here. Nevertheless, this earlier post foreshadowed this result. It was obvious to a lawyer’s mind that no three justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court had agreed on anything except that they were not overruling All Saints Waccamaw, which remained good law. And following that lead, Judge Dickson finds that each of the questions presented for him on remand was already resolved by that earlier decision.

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

Saint Philips Charleston–A Legal Update Based on Judge Edgar W. Dickson’s ruling today

Today, Judge Edgar W. Dickson, Judge of the First Judicial Circuit in the South Carolina Court of Common Pleas, issued an Order finding that St. Philip’s did not accede to the 1979 Dennis Canon and is thus the owner of its property. He further found that no other Parish acceded to the Dennis Canon and thus no trust was ever created in favor of The Episcopal Church (TEC). This is the ruling for which we have been praying.

Following the five separate Opinions issued by the Supreme Court of South Carolina on August 2, 2017, and subsequent motions and petitions, the case was remitted to the state trial court. Our Diocese, joined by St. Philip’s and the other Parishes (Plaintiffs), filed a Motion for Clarification of Jurisdiction and Other Relief in March of 2018. TEC and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (Defendants) filed a Petition for Execution and other relief in May of 2018.

Judge Dickson’s Order applies the “neutral principles of law” as directed by the majority of the state Supreme Court finding that a trust in parish property can be created in favor of TEC only if a parish church, in a signed writing, expressly agreed to the Dennis Canon. The Order recognizes that the Parishes’ names are on the deeds and that a valid trust under South Carolina law was never created or acknowledged by the Parishes. Judge Dickson reviewed the evidence admitted at trial––that had not been made available to the South Carolina Supreme Court––and concluded that there was no evidence of written accession to the Dennis Canon in the trial record. The Court found that although some parishes merely promised allegiance to TEC, that no parish expressly acceded to the 1979 Dennis Canon and thus this promise cannot deprive them of their ownership rights in their property.

With regards to St. Philip’s Church, Judge Dickson specifically found that the only evidence that Defendants argue could constitute accession to the Dennis Canon is the reference to the Articles of Religion contained in our 1987 Articles of Restatement. The court found that these Articles predate the Dennis Canon by 178 years and relate exclusively to religious doctrine, do not make an express accession to rules or Canons of TEC, and thus do not create an express agreement to the terms of the Dennis Canon. The Court found that the Articles of Religion were not part of the record on appeal and thus not considered by the state Supreme Court, that they are a summary of theological and doctrinal beliefs, and that there is “a complete lack of evidence of an express agreement to the 1979 Dennis Canon by St. Philip’s Church in a signed writing. Thus, this court finds that the Parish of St. Philip’s property title is held in fee simple absolute by the Parish, and its property is not held in trust for the Defendant TEC or TECSC.” (Order, page 27). The Order contains a similar examination of evidence and findings of fact for each of the other 27 Parishes in the litigation.

With regards to Camp St. Christopher, Judge Dickson noted that the trial court originally found that our Diocese was the proper statutory beneficiary of the Trustees that owned the Camp, that the Supreme Court Opinions do not change this finding, that the Diocese and all Parishes properly disassociated from TEC and control the real and personal property with any improvements thereon, and that the Camp should remain titled in the Trustee of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina as stated in the 1951 deed.

With regards to the trademarks, service marks, and intellectual property at issue in the litigation, Judge Dickson found that the federal court has jurisdiction over these matters. These matters were decided by an Order issued on September 19, 2019, by United States District Judge Richard Gergel granting summary judgment to the Defendants, and that Order is currently on appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

In his conclusion, Judge Dickson ordered that:
  • “the thirty-six Plaintiff Parishes be, and hereby are, declared and affirmed as the title owners in fee simple absolute of their respective parish real properties, with improvements thereon and their accompanying personal property.”
  • “certified true copies of this order shall be filed in the Clerk of Court’s Office in the county where each parish is located.”
  • “the Defendants herein have no interest in the Plaintiff Parishes’ properties.”
  • “ownership to Camp St. Christopher remain as titled to the Trustees of the Corporation as stated in the 1951 deed.”
  • “the Federal Court has jurisdiction over all matters related to trademarks, service marks, and intellectual property.”
  • “the request for the Appointment of a Special Master, the Petition for an Accounting are denied.”
Judge Dickson has previously acknowledged in open court that whatever order he issues would likely be appealed to the South Carolina Supreme Court.

For today’s ruling, we give thanks to God.

W. Foster Gaillard

Chancellor Emeritus
Ben A. Hagood, Jr.

Chancellor
St. Philip’s, Charleston, South Carolina

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, History, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

Judge Edgar W. Dickson Dickson Unpacks the South Carolina Supreme Court Ruling on the Property Dispute between TEC and the Historic Anglican Diocese

“This Court finds that no parish acceded to the 1979 Dennis Canon; the deed of Camp St. Christopher titled to the Trustee Corporation is controlling; the Federal Court has exclusive authority to decide all issues relating to the trademarks, service marks, and intellectual property; and the Defendants’ Petition for the Appointment of a Special Master and Petition for an Accounting are denied.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Language, Law & Legal Issues, Parish Ministry

(NYT Op-ed) Russell Moore–Monday’s Supreme Court decision on sex discrimination was a blow for religious freedom. That’s a problem — for both sides

Whatever the caricatures, almost no one, even among the most religiously conservative, argues that religious freedom outweighs every other concern. Everyone recognizes that as with freedom of speech and other constitutional guarantees, there will be some hard cases.

But it would be tragic to trample over the consciences of citizens whenever their beliefs come into conflict with the fluctuating norms of secular sexual orthodoxy. Likewise, almost no rational person would suggest that a religious-freedom consensus would evaporate our “culture war” disputes. We have real differences, and they are not going away anytime soon. What’s perilous right now is how we choose to have these arguments.

One need not agree with Christians or Muslims or Orthodox Jews or others on marriage and sexuality to see that such views are not incidental to their belief systems. They did not emerge out of a political debate, and they won’t be undone by political power. In many cases, these beliefs aren’t even, first of all, about sex or family or culture in the first place, but about what these religious people believe undergird them. In the case of 2,000 years of small “o” (and big “O,” for that matter) orthodox Christians, this is the belief that sexual expression is confined to the union of a man and a woman because marriage is an icon of the gospel union of Christ and his church.

That does not mean, in any way, that all Americans of deep religious belief agree on how to address these questions in the public square. One could find multiple views — even in church pews — about what, for instance, public nondiscrimination laws should be. It does mean, though, that such views are not peripheral to the missions of many religious institutions. One cannot simply uproot them and expect these people to adjust their consciences to fit the new cultural expectation.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Sexuality, Supreme Court, Theology

(NR) A Liberal Law Professor Explains Why the Equality Act Would ‘Crush’ Religious Dissenters

Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia, has been a longtime supporter of same-sex marriage. What’s made him unusual is that in recent years he’s been trying to make the case to liberals that “same-sex marriage and religious liberty can co-exist.” In 2017 he co-authored an article at Vox with another law professor to argue that Jack Phillips, the Evangelical Christian baker in Colorado at the center of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case, should be allowed to follow his conscience to not bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.

Laycock has also been a longtime supporter of enacting a federal gay-rights non-discrimination law, but he doesn’t support the Equality Act, a bill just approved by the House of Representatives that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, because it would “crush” conscientious objectors.

“It goes very far to stamp out religious exemptions,” Laycock tells National Review in an email. “It regulates religious non-profits. And then it says that [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] does not apply to any claim under the Equality Act. This would be the first time Congress has limited the reach of RFRA. This is not a good-faith attempt to reconcile competing interests. It is an attempt by one side to grab all the disputed territory and to crush the other side.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Supreme Court