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