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.
Category : TEC Conflicts: South Carolina
How do ECUSA and its attorneys manage to contend that there are any “rulings” in the August 2017 decision capable of being enforced? By vastly oversimplifying the jumble of five separate Justices’ opinions, that’s how.
I have demonstrated in earlier posts just how divided and disunited were the individual Justices (including especially Justice Hearn, who had not yet seen fit to disqualify herself — on the ground that she was an active member of one of the parishes whose property was at stake in the case, and had earlier underwritten the effort by dissident Episcopalians to remove Bishop Lawrence from his position). It is logically impossible to derive any legal result from the five opinions other than that three of the Justices (including the one now disqualified) voted to reverse the trial court’s judgment.
So Judge Goodstein’s judgment awarding the property is now reversed. What comes next? Ah, that is the question — and one looks in vain for a mandate (direction) from any three of opinions as got what the Circuit Court should do on remand towards entering a new judgment. As Judge Dickson said at the outset of the arguments on the motions before him:
The Court: The first motion that I have today, going through the list that y’all gave me the last time y’all were here, and I think the one I am most interested in is the motion to decide what I am supposed to decide. The clarification motion, okay.
In response to the contention by ECUSA’s attorney, Mary Kostel, that the Court’s ruling as to who owned the property was “clear”, Judge Dickson responded: “We would not be here if it was clear.”
And indeed, as pointed out in Bishop Lawrence’s response to the petition for mandamus, just one day before filing its motion for enforcement with Judge Dickson, ECUSA had filed a brief in opposition to Bishop Lawrence’s petition to the United States Supreme Court for a writ to review the August 2017 decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court (p. 4):
On May 7, 2018, Petitioners [in the Circuit Court, i.e., ECUSA and its diocese] argued to the United States Supreme Court that it should not grant Plaintiffs’ Petition for Certiorari because the Collective Opinions were “a poor vehicle for review.” Brief of Respondents in Opposition to Petition for Writ of Certiorari, 2018 WL 2129786 at 23-26. Petitioners [ECUSA and its diocese] contended this was so because the Collective Opinions are based on an “incomplete record”, which “contains significant ambiguities.” Id at 2, 23. The Collective Opinions are “fractured not only in rationale but even on facts.” Id at 2, 9. The absence “of a majority opinion on the standard of review” creates “ambiguities” making it “difficult to discern which of the trial court findings stand.” Id. at 23-24.
This is just another example of ECUSA’s unabashed hypocrisy in making diametrically opposed arguments to different courts, depending on the occasion. (For another egregious example, see this post.) For the US Supreme Court, the jumbled South Carolina opinions were “ambiguous” and “difficult to discern”, but in the South Carolina Circuit Court, just one day later, all was suddenly “clear.”
(Anglican Diocese of SC) South Carolina Supreme Court denies Petition for Writ of Prohibition by The Episcopal Church
The South Carolina Supreme Court announced yesterday that it has denied the Petition for a Writ of Prohibition submitted on February 21st by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), which sought to prevent Judge Edgar W. Dickson from ruling on the Diocese’s and parishes motion to clarify the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling. If granted, the petition would have prevented Judge Dickson from ruling on the case as he has indicated he was about to do. The Supreme Court’s order succinctly states: “Petitioners seek a Writ of Prohibition to prevent the circuit court from clarifying this Court’s decision in Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of S.C. v. Episcopal Church, 412 S.C. 211, 806 S.E. 2d 82 (2017). The petition is denied.”
This ruling by the Supreme Court allows Judge Dickson to proceed with clarifying the Court’s earlier August 2017 ruling, which was comprised of five separate opinions. That situation is unprecedented in the history of the court. This open-ended denial of the petition by the Supreme Court places no restrictions upon the appropriateness of Judge Dickson’s work in interpreting the meaning of the original ruling.
Ironically, this ruling comes almost exactly a year after TEC and TECSC filed a similar Petition with the high court for a Writ of Mandamus meant to force Judge Dickson to rule in the case. The Mandamus Petition asked the Supreme Court to require the Circuit Court to interpret the Supreme Court’s August 2, 2017 ruling favorably for TEC and TECSC. That petition was also denied by the Supreme Court in July of last year.
As before, the Prohibition Petition was an attempt to end run Judge Dickson’s exercise of his discretion in interpreting the August 2, 2017 decision in a manner that may differ from TEC and TECSC’s interpretation.
The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina welcomes this decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court affirming that the Circuit Court is the proper venue to resolve the many uncertain issues arising from the August 2, 2017 decision.
The Rev. Marcus Kaiser, President of the diocesan Standing Committee observed, “In this time, our focus is on caring for our people and praying for a world deeply rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, we are profoundly grateful that the Supreme Court has denied the request for a Writ of Prohibition, and hope this ruling helps move things along. We pray for Judge Dickson and the complex issues he has to deal with, even as we continue to focus on concerns far more pressing to most people.”
The brief in support of the motion by the Diocese to dismiss this Petition can be found on the Diocesan website, along with further background on the earlier Petition for Mandamus. The August 2, 2017, ruling by the Supreme Court may also be found here.
(#Anglican Diocese of SC) #SouthCarolina Supreme Court denies Petition for Writ of Prohibition by The Episcopal Church https://t.co/PZYCugWZhQ #law #religion #parishministry #history #lowcountrylife #stewardship #ethics pic.twitter.com/v5BuyYENTM
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) April 1, 2020
A S Haley–The Brand New TEC Diocese in South Carolina Attempts an End Run by filing a request with the SC Supreme Court in their lawsuit vs. the historic Anglican diocese of SouthCarolina
By invoking the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction over its inferior courts, the ECUSA parties at this point are demonstrating outright that they no longer have any confidence in Judge Dickson’s integrity to reach an impartial resolution of the puzzle presented to him by the five scattered opinions that came from the Court. Just as they requested the Court last June, ECUSA’s attorneys want to have the Court step in now and put an end to further delay in implementing what they claim was the Court’s “clear mandate.”
The problem is, the Supreme Court’s membership has changed since it rendered its fractured decision. Two of the then Justices (Toal and Pleicones) have retired from the Court, while a third (Hearn) belatedly recused herself from taking any further part in the case. That leaves only Chief Justice Donald Beatty and Justice John Kittredge out of the original panel, and those two were at odds with each other: the Chief Justice supported the official ECUSA line about the Dennis Canon, while Justice Kittredge was having nothing to do with any sort of remote trust that could be imposed on a parish’s property without its written consent.
Under those circumstances, the success of the petition filed by ECUSA will at the outset turn upon the view of it by the two new appointees to the Supreme Court: Justice John Cannon Few and Justice George C. James, Jr. If they agree between themselves on how to deal with the petition, their votes will carry the day by making the tally 3-1 (whether to deny the petition or to grant it). And if they disagree? The result (presuming that the C.J. and Kittredge are still at odds) would be a 2-2 tie, with the result that the writ could not issue.
Long and short of it: The Court will issue the petition restraining Judge Dickson only if the two new appointees both vote with the Chief Justice to grant the writ.
After all, there is nothing compelling the Court to be as impatient as ECUSA is to get a result; the Justices will each still collect their paychecks regardless of how they rule. And after all the time and effort Judge Dickson has expended to get to the point where he is now ready to take up ECUSA’s motions, one would think that the Court will be in no great hurry to take the case away from him, either.
A S Haley–The Brand New TEC Diocese in South Carolina Attempts an End Run by filing a request with the SC Supreme Court in their lawsuit with the historic Anglican diocese of #SouthCarolina https://t.co/WGUBQFRRa4 #law #ethics #lowcountrylife #religion #parishministry pic.twitter.com/1WEHrm0thL
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) February 26, 2020
The brand new TEC Diocese in South Carolina Files a Petition for a Writ of Prohibition with the South Carolina Supreme Court in its Controversy with the Historic Anglican Diocese of South Carolina
Take the time to read it all (18 page pdf).
(GR) Terry Mattingly–After decades of fighting, United Methodists avoid a visit from Ghost of the Episcopal Future?
Wait a minute. The crucial language that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” was just approved this past February? That hasn’t been the language in church discipline documents for many years before 2019 and affirmed in multiple votes?
But here is the most crucial point. What, precisely, are the “fundamental differences” that the United Methodists involved in these negotiations — leaders from left and right — cited as the cause of the upcoming ecclesiastical divorce? Was it really LGBTQ issues, period?
Consider this commentary from David French (an evangelical Presbyterian) of The Dispatch:
The secular media will cast the divide primarily in the terms it understands — as focused on “LGBT issues” — but that’s incomplete. The true fracturing point between Mainline and Evangelical churches is over the authority and interpretation of scripture. The debate over LGBT issues is a consequence of the underlying dispute, not its primary cause. …
Thus, at heart, the disagreement between the Evangelical and Mainline branches of Christianity isn’t over issues — even hot-button cultural and political issues — but rather over theology. Indeed, the very first clause of the United Methodist Church’s nine-page separation plan states that church members “have fundamental differences regarding their understanding and interpretation of Scripture, theology and practice.”
Ah, there’s the rub. Who wants to put “Scripture, theology and practice” in a news report — especially at NBC Out and similar structures in other newsrooms — when you can blame the whole denominational war over conservatives refusing to evolve on LGBTQ issues?
After decades of fighting, United Methodists avoid a visit from Ghost of the Episcopal Future? https://t.co/o1OptQUJJ9
— GetReligion (@GetReligion) January 6, 2020
The New TEC Diocese in South Carolina files yet another Petition against the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina
On November 11, 2019 the Episcopal Church in South Carolina filed yet another petition (41 page pdf) in Federal Court this time objecting to the Diocese’s use of the name The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina, as well as references found on the diocesan website pertaining to its history.
Our legal team, in conjunction with the Standing Committee are formulating a response.
Historic Anglican Diocese of South Carolina recent Legal Developments (V)–Diocese gives joint Notice of appeal of Judge Gergel’s Ruling
Historic Anglican Diocese of South Carolina recent Legal Developments (III)-An Update for St. Philip’s Church from Ben A. Hagood
On September 19, 2019, U.S. Federal District Judge Richard Gergel ruled that St. Philip’s Church, and the other parishes in our diocese that disassociated from The Episcopal Church (TEC), are free to continue using their historic parish names. The formal, legal name of our parish is “The Protestant Episcopal Church of the Parish of Saint Philip, in Charleston, in the State of South Carolina.” For some years, we have simply been known as “St. Philip’s Church.” Judge Gergel ruled that the historic inclusion of the word “episcopal” in our name does not constitute trademark infringement, trademark dilution, or false advertising as claimed by TEC and its affiliated diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC).
In a separate, contemporaneous order Judge Gergel ruled that the seal and names of our diocese (specifically, “Diocese of South Carolina,” “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina,” and “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina”) infringe upon the trademarks of TEC and TECSC and that our diocese and all of its parish churches, including St. Philip’s Church, are permanently enjoined from using these marks or any mark confusingly similar. St. Philip’s is now complying with this injunction by discontinuing use of any of the enjoined names or marks. On September 20, our diocese changed its name to “The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.” At this point, our diocese and St. Philip’s are reviewing these Orders with our litigation counsel to determine next steps.
The rulings in federal court arise from the case brought by TECSC and TEC, originally filed in 2013, against our diocese alleging trademark infringement, trademark dilution and false advertisement. In 2018 St. Philip’s, and the other parishes associated with our diocese, were added as defendants. It is important to note that this federal trademark and false advertising litigation does not affect the property ownership issues of St. Philip’s Church and the other parishes. Those issues currently remain in state trial court before Circuit Judge Edgar W. Dickson.
Judge Dickson has held two hearings on motions related to the property ownership issues. Last November he held hearings on a motion filed by us, our diocese, and associated parishes, seeking clarification of the South Carolina Supreme Court opinions. This motion includes our argument that the Supreme Court opinions concluded that those parishes that did not expressly accede in writing to TEC’s Dennis Cannon retain ownership of their property; that St. Philip’s Church, and the other parishes, never expressly acceded in writing to the Dennis Canon; and that no judge has made a finding of fact to the contrary. This motion is still under consideration by Judge Dickson.
This past July, Judge Dickson held a hearing in a separate state court case involving the property issues, a case brought under the state Betterments Act. The suit under the Betterments Act alleges that if TEC or TECSC is ultimately determined to be the owners of property held by our diocese and its parishes, including St. Philip’s Church, then the diocese and parishes are entitled to be compensated for all improvements made to the properties. On August 28th Judge Dickson issued an order rejecting TEC and TECSC’s motion that this Betterments Act suit should be dismissed. Judge Dickson has also ordered that all of the property ownership issues and other state court issues should be mediated by the parties. Mediation is currently scheduled for
–Ben A. Hagood, Jr.
Chancellor, St. Philip’s Church
On Thursday, September 20 District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel ruled in favor of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local diocese, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), in a federal trademark case. In the 73-page decision, Judge Gergel issued an injunction preventing the Diocese and parishes in union with it from using the names and seal of the diocese. These are: “Diocese of South Carolina”; “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina”; “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina” and The Diocesan Seal.
“We’re disappointed, of course,” said the Rev. Marcus Kaiser, Rector of the Church of the Holy Comforter in Sumter, who serves as the President of the Standing Committee, which also serves as the Diocese’s Board of Directors. “But changing our name doesn’t change who we are, or who we’ve ever been. It simply changes the name under which we operate.”
The Standing Committee met Friday morning and unanimously voted to adopt the name “The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina.” Although Counsel for both the Diocese and the Parishes who are studying the order believe it likely will be appealed, even erroneous orders still must be obeyed. “I am grateful,” noted Bishop Lawrence, “for the faithful response of our Standing Committee, the diocesan staff, and legal team in seeking to comply with this order. We work not in fear, for as St. Paul has reminded us, God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind.”
On August 28th , in one of two state cases regarding the ownership of parish and diocesan property, Judge Edgar Dickson issued an order adverse to TEC and TECSC. He rejected their request to dismiss the diocese and parish claims to recover the value of improvements to parish and diocesan real property under the Betterments Statute if it is decided that TEC has title to those properties. He also stated that he had yet to rule on motions before him concerning the question of whether the five separate opinions of the Supreme Court found that there has been any Diocesan or Parish loss of property.“The Court…recognizes that were it to rule against the Defendants [TEC and TECSC] on some or all of those motions, this betterments action could become moot….” “…the Court will consider, for purposes of ruling on the motion to dismiss only, that the betterments action is ripe.”
The state cases were ordered to be mediated by Judge Dickson which will be held on September 26th. That mediation, which had been scheduled for earlier this month, was postponed due to Hurricane Dorian.
Your Prayers Requested as mediation begins next week in the Mess between the Historic Diocese of South Carolina and the brand new TEC Diocese
St. Matthews, S.C. (July 23, 2019) – Immediately on the heels of The South Carolina Supreme Court on June 28, denying the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus submitted by The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC), Judge Edgar W. Dickson promptly resumed proceedings on the related legal matters. The hearing on the Betterments Statute issues, which had been cancelled in March when the petition for Mandamus was filed, was held today in the Calhoun County Courthouse in St. Matthews, SC.
The Betterments Statute, under South Carolina law, provides the means for a party making good faith improvements to property they believe they own, to be compensated for the value of those improvements, if a court makes a final determination that another party is the true owner. Many of the parishes in the Diocese of South Carolina can trace their unbroken history back to the colonial era of the state. During that entire time, there has never been any question of their unencumbered title to property or legal identity. All have proceeded throughout their history with the maintenance and improvement of their properties with these assumptions.
The motion previously filed by TECSC asked for the dismissal of the case, primarily on the basis that it had not been filed in a timely fashion and that they were not actually taking ownership of the churches but merely exercising their trust interest in the property. The Diocese maintained that the court needed to decide which, if any, of the 29 parishes agreed (acceded) to the Dennis Canon before it could decide whether this case should proceed. As to the eight parishes that TEC and TECSC concede did not agree to the Dennis Canon, Judge Dickson asked Diocesan counsel to submit proposed orders making the finding that those parishes did not accede to the Denis Canon.
The five separate opinions that constitute the Supreme Court decision resulted in a fractured ruling whose interpretation is currently under consideration by Judge Dickson. The effort to force a particular interpretation of that decision was the essential purpose of the recent Petition for Mandamus filed by TEC and TECSC which was denied by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2019.
Judge Dickson took the motion to dismiss the Betterments case under advisement. He also ordered the parties to mediate all the issues raised in the two state lawsuits referencing the relatively recent Supreme Court order which requires mandatory mediation in civil cases.
#SouthCarolina Circuit Court Hears Arguments on Betterments Statute and Orders Mediation in Complex #episcopalchurch case https://t.co/BfbaOVKbu2 #religion #law #lowcountrylife #ethics #stewardship #history pic.twitter.com/PpA5Y1kGy9
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) July 26, 2019
South Carolina Supreme Court Allows Parishes and Diocese to Intervene and Denies Writ of Mandamus Petition by The Episcopal Church
Columbia, S.C. (July 1, 2019) – The South Carolina Supreme Court announced today that it has denied the Petition for a Writ of Mandamus submitted by The Episcopal Church (TEC) on March 22, 2019, seeking to compel Judge Edgar W. Dickson to rule in their favor. The Parishes and the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) responded on March 26, requesting the Supreme Court’spermission to intervene. On April 12 they submitted their Return to the Petition.
Today’s action by the Supreme Court allowed the intervention of all the parties whose property TEC seeks and confirms the arguments presented in the Return which they filed. The intent of the Petition requested by TEC was to have the Supreme Court require the Circuit Court to interpret the
Supreme Court’s August 2, 2017 ruling as TEC wished it interpreted. The Parishes and the Diocese opposed the Petition essentially arguing that the issues were before Judge Dickson who was using the discretion afforded him by state law to resolve them.
#SouthCarolina Supreme Court Allows Parishes and Diocese to Intervene and Denies Writ of Mandamus Petition by The Episcopal Church+its new diocese https://t.co/Xd48whpGau #law #religion #lowcountrylife pic.twitter.com/54yfSJx0CA
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) July 1, 2019
Update: Those interested in the very new TEC diocese of South Carolina pr on this may find it there.
The Long Road to Freedom: The Diocese of South Carolina and Parishes File 38 Motions for Summary Judgement
The Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) continues on the long road to freedom from The Episcopal Church (TEC), filing motions for summary judgement in the now nearly six-year-old federal suit brought by its former denomination. Motions by the Diocese and its fifty-four parish defendants ask the Court to acknowledge, as a matter of law, they have neither infringed on TEC trademarks, diminished the value of those marks or harmed the denomination by continued use of names which have been in use before the denomination existed.
The current federal litigation was initiated by TEC in 2013, after the Diocese made the decision to disassociate from the national denomination it helped charter in 1789, five years after its own founding. The decision to leave was made in the fall of 2012 after denominational leadership attempted to wrongly remove its duly elected bishop. Over 80% of the congregations and their members affirmed that decision at a special Diocesan Convention in November 2012. TEC has never accepted that decision by 23,000 parishioners of the Diocese, continuing to litigate all such efforts by congregations and dioceses across the country wishing to free themselves from its control.
The original federal court complaint was initially against Bishop Lawrence alone, asserting that he continued to hold himself out falsely as a bishop of TEC, thus creating “confusion”. In April of this year the case was expanded to include the Diocese and all its congregations, even those formed after the disassociation who had no prior affiliation with the denomination. All are now charged with being party to the willful creation of confusion for attendees by virtue of using their historic names and continuing to conduct worship as they always have. These actions are alleged to mislead attendees to believe these are still TEC congregations.
Read it all and make sure to follow all the links.
The Long Road to Freedom: The Diocese of #SouthCarolina and Parishes File 38 Motions for Summary Judgement https://t.co/zPwxmT2uD5 #religion #law #history #anglican #parishministry #stewardship #ethics #lowcountrylife
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) December 13, 2018
The Latest Development In the Highly Contentious Court Battle Between the new TEC Diocese and the Historic Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina
Judge Dickson Will Determine What the Supreme Court Opinions Mean
ORANGEBURG, S.C. (November 19, 2018) – Today, in the Orangeburg County Courthouse the honorable Edgar W. Dickson, heard arguments from the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church on motions directed to the ruling of the South Carolina Supreme Court.
The judge began by asking, “Who thinks this case will be resolved today?” When one person in the courtroom raised a hand the judge indicated he hoped they were pulling for South Carolina in their upcoming game against Clemson, and concluded, “Six judges have heard this case. I’m number seven. I hope that’s a lucky number.”
While five motions are presently before the court, Judge Dickson said, “the motion I’m most interested in” is the issue of what he has to decide.
Alan Runyan argued for the Diocese that given the lack of clarity in the five separate opinions, Judge Dickson had to first decide, what, if anything, the Supreme Court decided. The slide presentation summarizing his argument may be found here. Mr Runyan noted at the beginning of his argument that the last statements by half the Supreme Court were that “We have given little to no coherent guidance in this case” and “The Court’s collective opinions give rise to great uncertainty” in “this matter of great importance.”
Tom Tisdale, counsel for TECSC and Mary Kostel, Counsel for TEC, presented their arguments which essentially repeated their prior assertions that “the decision has been made,” by the South Carolina Supreme Court, and all that was left was enforcement of the results.
It was obvious that Judge Dickson had problems with the argument that it is clear what the Supreme Court decided.
Addressing Mr. Tisdale, he asked, “How many times have you seen a Supreme Court decision with five separate opinions?” Mr. Tisdale acknowledged that it had never happened in the history of the court.
When counsel for TEC continued to assert that the result was clear, the judge replied, “Like through a glass darkly.”
In commenting on the present ruling he observed, “Usually when I get something remitted it’s clear what I’m supposed to do.” In this case, however, interpreting the Supreme Court ruling will entail “trying to ferret out what they meant.”
In concluding he observed, “I have to decide and whatever is decided will be appealed by one side or the other.”
The Judge indicated he would be sending follow up questions by email for both sides.
You may find the bishop’s letter about this there.
For years, top legal minds have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to settle property fights between big national churches and breakaway congregations.
For years, they have been turned away before ever reaching the court’s marble steps.
Whether a South Carolina case becomes the one that finally lands in the high court is a question that soon will be answered. The case could make history and carry implications for disputes that have divided other religious denominations throughout the country.
The new Episcopal Church Diocese in South Carolina and TEC have filed a motion to extend the time to file a response from March 29, 2018 to April 30, 2018. Interested blog readers may continue to follow the case there on the SCOTUS website.
Mediation Process between the Historic Diocese of South Carolina and the new TEC in SC Diocese Recessed Until January
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today a further session of mediation with Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. was conducted. Mediation is now in recess until January 11-12 in Columbia.
The clergy of the Diocese are reminded that Judge Anderson is allowing no discussion, outside of mediation sessions, of what has been said there.
As the Diocese continues to faithfully journey through this process of litigation at multiple levels, I ask your continued prayers for wisdom and discernment on the part of the Bishop, legal counsel and all the Diocesan leadership.
In Christ’s service,
–The Rev. Canon Jim Lewis is Canon to the ordinary in the Diocese of South Carolina
Just a Reminder that the mediation Process between the Historic Diocese of South Carolina and the new TEC in SC Diocese started back today
What was that South Carolina Betterment Statute that Bishop Mark Lawrence referred to in his recent letter?
One of the good things about blogs is you can learn things from them which you can learn nowhere else. This past week is a case in point. In his letter of last weekend the Bishop said:
All parties to the case have previously discussed the timetable for a filing under the Betterments Statute. Legal counsel can give you best directions for how to proceed with that process (my emphasis).
And just what it this “Betterments Statute”? You can find it there and please note carefully its wording which includes among other sections the following:
SECTION 27-27-10. Recovery for improvements made in good faith.
After final judgment in favor of the plaintiff in an action to recover lands and tenements, if the defendant has purchased or acquired the lands and tenements recovered in such action or taken a lease thereof or those under whom he holds have purchased or acquired a title to such lands and tenements or taken a lease thereof, supposing at the time of such purchase or acquisition such title to be good in fee or such lease to convey and secure the title and interest therein expressed, such defendant shall be entitled to recover of the plaintiff in such action the full value of all improvements made upon such land by such defendant or those under whom he claims, in the manner provided in this chapter….
SECTION 27-27-30. Proceedings subsequent to judgment to recover value of improvements.
The defendant in such action shall, within forty-eight hours after such judgment or during the term of the court in which it shall be rendered, file in the office of the clerk of the court in which such judgment was rendered a complaint against the plaintiff for so much money as the lands and tenements are so made better. The filing of such complaint shall be sufficient notice to the defendant in such complaint to appear and defend against it. All subsequent proceedings shall be had in accordance with the practice prescribed in this Code for actions generally….
SECTION 27-27-40. Stay of judgment in first action; special verdict for betterments.
The court, on the entry of such action, shall stay all proceedings upon the judgment obtained in the prior action, except the recovery of such lands, until the sale of the lands recovered as provided in Section 27-27-60. The final judgment shall be upon a special verdict by a jury, under the direction of the court, stating the value of the lands and tenements without the improvements put thereon in good faith by the defendant in the prior action and the value thereof with improvements. The defendant in the prior action shall be entitled for such betterments to a verdict for the value thereof, as of the date when the lands were recovered from him and interest on such verdict from such date.
Letters from South Carolina Bishop Mark Lawrence and the Standing Committee about the Appeal of our Case to the US Supreme Court
“The [new diocese of the] Episcopal Church in South Carolina has frequently stated that they..[have] always been seeking reconciliation in this present legal conflict. However, one should be aware of what their words suggest. I would paraphrase it thusly — ‘Of course, you may remain worshipping in your Church buildings. All you have to do is surrender to the national Episcopal Church and we will receive you back.‘ Frankly, I believe a more honorable goal would be a charitable parting of the ways enabling each diocese to get on with its mission to a needy world. In the absence of this, we are compelled to move forward with a petition for the higher court’s review.”
Read them both and read them all (emphasis his).
Ltrs from #SouthCarolina Bp Mark Lawrence+the Standing Committee abt the Appeal of Case to the #USA Supreme Court https://t.co/UozFwhLVVI ' I believe a more honorable goal wd B a charitable parting of the ways enabling each diocese to get on w its mission 2 a needy world #SCOTUS pic.twitter.com/JU4syND3Ht
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 22, 2017
It is with the weight of decision but conviction of heart and mind that I write to tell you the Standing Committee, after prayerful deliberation, and with my full support, has voted unanimously to proceed with a petition for a writ of certiorari with the United States Supreme Court. I remind you that this long process first began with our stand for Gospel truth—holding firmly to the faith once delivered to the saints. All too soon, we were thrust us into a battle for Religious Freedom. As Justice Kitteridge has aptly stated about the State Supreme Court’s recent denial for rehearing “…to disallow a full court from considering the rehearing petitions is deeply troubling and, in my opinion, raises constitutional implications as the Court has blocked a fair and meaningful merits review of the rehearing petitions.” So we have before us our commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ to which we are unwaveringly wedded; a civil concern for religious freedom for ourselves and others; and a public duty to petition for constitutional due process to be upheld. Any of these might justify taking the next step down this legal road. Together they make a three-fold cord not easily broken.
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 22, 2017
A Message from the Rector of Saint Michael’s, Charleston, about the recent South Carolina Supreme Court Decisions
(Via email–KSH) Dear St. Michaelites and Friends:
Yesterday, we received word that the South Carolina Supreme Court, in a tight and split vote, denied the rehearing and recusal request filed by our Diocese of South Carolina. We agree with our diocese that given the gravity of all these concerns, we will now give serious consideration to seeking review by the United States Supreme Court. We believe the number and character of the issues at stake in this ruling merit review by the high court. We also continue to pray for our mediation that will resume in 2 weeks. We remain confident that God is at work in even these circumstances to redeem and use them, as He does all things, for His glory and the building up of His Church.
As we continue to wait, we as one continue in our mission to Transform Hearts through Jesus Christ, in fact I was preaching at the Church of the Resurrection this morning in our pre-arranged pulpit swap. As I was praying and preparing to drive to the church plant, Jesus used that hymn Be Still, My Soul by Katharina Amalia Dorothea von Schlegelhelp to help me realize once again… He IS still in control, let those words wash over you:
Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Leave to thy God to order and provide
In every change He faithful will remain
Be still my soul thy best, thy heavenly friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end
Even before this decision of the State Supreme Court, your wardens and I had decided that we would hold three Sundays for prayer and conversation from 2:00 – 4:00 pm, no agenda just a one-on-one check in with you. We began today and will continue during the Sundays of November 26 and December 3. No sign ups necessary, join us on these Sunday afternoons….
Blessings and much Love,
–The Rev. Alfred T.K. Zadig, Jr. is Rector of Saint Michael’s, Charleston
Bishop Mark Lawrence’s Letter to the Diocese of South Carolina following the recent SC Supreme Court Decisions
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today legal counsel for the Diocese received written notification that both our motions for Recusal and for Rehearing were denied by the State Supreme Court. The former was denied 5-0. The latter was denied 2-2 with Justice Hearn abstaining and no fifth justice appointed to fill the vacancy.
For those parishes that are parties to the litigation, I encourage you, at this stage, to consult with your parish chancellor. All parties to the case have previously discussed the timetable for a filing under the Betterments Statute. Legal counsel can give you best directions for how to proceed with that process. Our press release for this evening can be found here.
As you will remember, we began our week with our Annual Clergy Conference reflecting together on the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 and 12:9-10. Now this final ruling from the South Carolina Supreme Court coming as it does at the very end of the week presses us once again with the need to find comfort, strength, and courage from the Lord through these words of Holy Scripture. May I encourage you to revisit them—I believe they were prophetic in their timing for us. Meanwhile please know that I have spoken with our lead counsel, Mr. Alan Runyan, Fr. David Thurlow, President of the Standing Committee, as well as with Canon Lewis. A Standing Committee meeting has been called for this Tuesday morning, November 21, 2017.
I will write further to you and to the diocese once I have met with the Standing Committee and have more thoroughly examined the options before us. For now we will continue to stand forthright for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the faith once delivered to the saints!
Please continue to hold our Diocesan Leadership and Legal Counsel in your prayers.
Your brother in Christ,
–(The Rt. Rev.) Mark Lawrence, 14th Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina
Bp Mark Lawrence’s Letter 2 the Diocese of #SouthCarolina following the recent SC Supreme Court Decisions #religion #law #Anglican #ministry #bettermentstatute #ethics #stewardship #episcopal https://t.co/b3HbqP7IMK pic.twitter.com/M551dIkn46
— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) November 20, 2017
In a 2-2 Decision, the South Carolina Supreme Court Denies the Historic Diocese of South Carolina a rehearing
Today the Diocese of South Carolina (Diocese) was informed by mail that the South Carolina Supreme Court denied its motions filed for Rehearing and Recusal in its ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622. Doing so finalized a sharply divided ruling that could deprive at least 28 parish churches of their right to properties some have held for over 300 years.
Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:
“We are deeply disappointed the Court did not see fit to recuse Justice Hearn. Her personal interest in the outcome of this litigation, beyond the normal matters of law, has clearly influenced its outcome. That is unfortunate not only for the Diocese but for all the citizens of this State with concerns for a fair and impartial judiciary. We also find it disturbing that the weight of the Constitutional concerns raised was not given further opportunity to be addressed. Church property ownership in South Carolina is now gravely complicated.
Given the gravity of all these concerns, we will now give serious consideration to seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court. We believe the number and character of the issues at stake in this ruling merit review by the high court. Because of the long road of litigation that has brought us to this day, all the parties to this case will need to take counsel together before deciding our next steps.
We remain confident that God is at work in even these circumstances to redeem and use them, as He does all things, for His glory and the building up of His Church.”
Statement by the Rev. Canon Jim Lewis:
“Friday’s brief illustrates well two essential problems with the current ruling of the Court. Because there is no legal consensus among the Justices, the ruling as it stands is, as stated in the brief, a “recipe for endless litigation.” As a consequence of misapplying neutral principles of law as intended by the U.S. Supreme Court, it violates rather than preserves, the First Amendment protections of religious liberty they are meant to ensure. Resolving these significant issues merits rehearing by the Court.”
The Diocese also provided the following list of additional details from Friday’s filed Brief:
- “For over 300 years, since before the Founding of this Nation, members of the Respondent’s congregations contributed land, money and labor in reliance on settled South Carolina law – only to have this Court divest them of their property based on a canon unilaterally adopted centuries later by a national denomination. This outcome was possible only because the Court fashioned a new rule of law solely for this case, and this denomination. But that rule of law departs from this court’s precedents and imposes special burdens on religious associations relative to secular ones. Those burdens violate the First Amendment.” [p. 1]
- “Amici believe strongly that churches freely associated with each other can also freely choose to disassociate. And the exercise of that freedom should not come at the price of the tools for ministry established by local sacrifice… ” [p. 4]
- “… the Court’s fractured decision leaves church property law in this state in utter confusion…. This confusion is a recipe for endless litigation.” [p. 2]
- The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Jones vs. Wolf established the use of neutral principles of law to settle church property disputes… “A court applying a neutral principles approach can only apply state law as it normally would; any other approach would be the opposite of neutral principles.” [p. 9]
- As the Court has done in this case, “Giving legal effect to trusts declared in denominational documents is not even mere deference. It is giving denominations power to rewrite civil property law.” [p. 14] and that is in violation of the free exercise of religion.
- “If that conception of “neutral principles” is correct, then no church can join a denomination without jeopardizing its property.” [p. 16]
- “Any denomination could pass a retroactive internal rule that would appropriate congregants gifts and church property.” … “Without secure property ownership, many rounds of future litigation are inevitable.” [p. 18]
- “If ownership no longer turns on publicly recorded deeds and trust instruments, but on the meaning of internal church rules and relationships, no one can know for certain who owns church property.” [p. 18]
- “Moreover, the Court’s ruling could eviscerate otherwise clear titles” and harm “the rights of insurers and lenders” all with “not a single justice agreeing as to exactly how State title and property law apply in this dispute.” [p. 19]
Read it all and please take the time to read the full brief.