Category : Law & Legal Issues

Dr John Kerrison weighs in on the South Carolina Supreme Court Decision

From here:

Imagine you are in court getting divorced. You may be angry, relieved, or bereft of hope. Nevertheless, you expect fair treatment.

It happens that you are married to a judge.

Wait — the judge hearing your case is your spouse?

Now the judge has ruled in her own favor on their own, personal case. Is this justice? Who cares?

Think about that for a minute. This happened when S.C. State Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn ruled in a case despite her membership in the activist Episcopal Forum, and even though it directly involved her own church and disregarded established precedent of the S.C. Supreme Court.

When my wife and I formally complained in writing to the committee on Judicial Conduct on Sept. 28, 2015 about the conflict of interest in accordance with Canons 2 and 3 of the South Carolina Code of Judicial Ethics, we were told this was not a problem.

Now that she has ruled, it is a problem on display for all.

When you love God, you love justice. Blessed are those who are persecuted for his sake.

John B. Kerrison, M.D….

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

The Historic Diocese of South Carolina responds to the New TEC Diocese’s Motion on the Rehearing

Today The Episcopal Church (TEC) filed their reply, as requested by the Court, to the motions by the Diocese of South Carolina and 28 parish churches for recusal and rehearing in the South Carolina Supreme Court, regarding its recent ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622.

On behalf of the Diocese of South Carolina, Rev. Canon Jim Lewis issued the following statement:

“Today’s filing by The Episcopal Church argues in essence, that the Diocese and its parishes waived their right to recusal, by not requesting it earlier, and that the Constitutional issues raised in their motions are negligible or mistaken.  The facts in this ruling, as it presently stands however, will not yield to such arguments.  Justice Hearn’s bias and conflict of interest is clear to any impartial observer.  The Constitutional issues for Freedom of Religion remain.  As our petition for rehearing stated: “These are serious issues for Respondents, Appellants and for all religious organizations in South Carolina. This Court should grant a rehearing.”  That continues to be our hope and Constitutional expectation from the Court.”


The Diocese is also providing the following background information and details:

•    In 2012, the Diocese of South Carolina, along with 50 of its congregations voted by an 80% margin to disassociate from The Episcopal Church.  In a complicated and sharply divided ruling consisting of five separate opinions, the S.C. Supreme Court appeared to rule on August 2 this year that parishes which had “acceded” to the national church are subject to a trust interest in their property by (TEC).

•    The Constitutional due process requirements of the 14th Amendment are clear.  No member of government should make decisions in matters in which they have a vested interest in the outcome.  The Justice in this ruling who provided the deciding vote is a member of a TEC parish, Diocese and its national church.  Under South Carolina law, that Justice is a legal party to this litigation.  The bodies to which this Justice belongs as a member would be the beneficiaries of a nearly $500 million property windfall if this ruling stands.  That is a massive conflict of interest.  And it is the responsibility of the judge, under the South Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct, to reveal that issue, not for a party in the case to challenge the propriety of their actions.

•    The expert affidavit testimonies of Nathan M. Crystal, Professor and Adjunct Professor of Ethics at the University of South Carolina and NYU Schools of Law and Lawrence J. Fox, Professor of Ethics at Yale University are unanimous in their conclusions.  The due process rights of the Diocese of South Carolina have been violated by these actions and the only appropriate response is for this Justice to be recused from further participation in this case and their opinion vacated.  As Lawrence Fox observes in his analysis, “This is not a close case.”  The violations of due process here are not subtle.  They are profound….

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Laity, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

New Episcopal Church in South Carolina Diocese Files its Motion with the South Carolina Supreme Court on the Rehearing Request

You may find the 32 page pdf document here and the press release about it there.

Posted in * South Carolina, Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read it all.

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

Signers of the Nehemiah Network in Support of Religious Freedom for all, including the Diocese of South Carolina

As leaders in South Carolina’s religious community, we prize its long and rich history of religious freedom. The ability to gather freely and worship with those of common faith is what brought many of our ancestors to this land. The freedom to do so is a presumption on which all our ministries rest today. Whether we are colonial Anglican parishes, Huguenots, Baptists, non-denominational or any other religious tradition, we share this in common. It is what has made the rich tapestry of religious diversity in South Carolina possible. But we perceive that freedom is now in jeopardy.

The narrowly divided decision on August 2nd by the South Carolina Supreme Court would transfer nearly $500 million in church property from the congregations of the Diocese of South Carolina who created it for their ministry, to an unincorporated New York association who contributed nothing to its development. We believe this decision undermines multiple Constitutional protections we are compelled to speak out to defend.

The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all people the “free exercise of religion.” That amendment also asserts that the government, including its courts, “shall make no establishment of religion.” This means that it cannot favor one religious group over another nor elevate non-religious over religious bodies by its treatment.

Read it all.

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

(The State) How a South Carolina Supreme Court decision threatens religious freedom


The court’s ruling violates these constitutional principles, creating a standard for property trusts that favors some organizations over others. The majority opinion suggests that an unincorporated association, merely by changing its bylaws, can claim the property of its members. It would be as if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce passed a rule claiming an interest in the property of every local chamber, with no explicit local agreement to that transfer of ownership.

There is no statute or common law in South Carolina supporting the validity of such a claim, yet that is what this ruling does. It asserts that there are different rules for religious versus non-religious entities. That is a disturbing precedent. As Justice John Kittredge observed in his dissent, “The message is clear for churches in South Carolina that are affiliated in any manner with a national organization and have never lifted a finger to transfer control or ownership of their property — if you think your property ownership is secure, think again.”

With freedom of association comes freedom to disassociate. Churches that freely associated with each other should be free to disassociate — and that disassociation should not cost them the very ministries that were established by local sacrifice. When the vast majority of…[parishioners] choose to disassociate (80 percent in this case) in keeping with state law and Supreme Court precedent, the courts should respect the decision.

There are also essential issues of fairness at stake in this case. A principle of the 14th Amendment is that no one in government should make decisions on matters in which they have a vested interest. In this ruling, the deciding vote was cast by a justice who belongs to a parish, diocese and national denomination that stand to gain tremendously from the outcome.

Read it all.

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

(WSJ) CC Pecknold on the very troubling recent Senate questioning of a recent Roman Catholic Judicial Nominee

…at the very moment Ms. Feinstein is alienating religious conservatives, two prominent Democrats are pushing a new progressive claim on Christianity. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) has spoken to journalists about how her faith shapes her political views. And Hillary Clinton, who reportedly once considered becoming an ordained minister, has made religion central to her postelection messaging, as the Atlantic reported last month in a story titled “ Hillary Wants to Preach.”

Sens. Feinstein and Durbin were troubled not by Ms. Barrett’s Catholicism, but by her failure to prove her religion could conform to a more dogmatic progressivism. The “religious test” Democrats want to impose isn’t about religion per se; it’s about ensuring that every religious claim can be bent to more comprehensive political aims. It’s about defining anyone who dissents from the mores of the sexual revolution as disqualified from public office. That’s what makes Ms. Feinstein’s questioning so chilling.

Few liberals have spoken out against these religious tests, providing tacit consent for the Democratic Party to continue the practice. One of America’s major political parties appears prepared to consent to a very different kind of creed from the one the American founders envisioned. Our forefathers understood religious freedom in positive terms, as freedom for the highest good, God. This “first freedom” was held as the basis of all the political freedoms, including the freedom to dissent and to disagree on matters of law and politics.

Ms. Barrett has spent her career honoring the older creed—not only with her Scalia-like deference to the law, but through respect for freedom of religion and conscience. Ms. Feinstein honored the new creed, the one dividing an already polarized nation. A dogmatism now threatens countless Americans’ freedom, and it isn’t Catholicism.

Read it all (my emphasis).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate

(FCD) Why Doctors And Cops Are Taking Art Observation Classes

Looking at art isn’t just a pleasurable way to spend a few hours. It also has real benefits for professionals who are far afield from the art world, from detectives to doctors.

A new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school suggests that taking art observation classes could sharpen medical students’ visual analysis skills. This is important because the ability to correctly read and interpret images like X-rays and other kinds of scans is vital in the process of diagnosis–one that beginner medical students are often lacking, at least partially because it’s a skill medical schools don’t teach.

The study, published by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, focuses specifically on medical students studying ophthalmology–the medical field focused on the eyes–because so much of that discipline relies on doctors using observation to examine and diagnose patients. For the study, 18 first-year medical students took art observation classes, where they had six-hour-and-a-half sessions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, while a control group also composed of 18 first-yearmedical students did not. None of the students had prior art training….

Read it all.

Posted in Art, Education, Health & Medicine, Police/Fire

(Guardian) Giles Fraser–The disestablishment of the church is now necessary and inevitable

I always used to think that no political party would be prepared to give disestablishment the time and effort that it would require. But Prime Minister Corbyn might just be the man to do it. And far from being a fusty move for constitutional committees, disestablishment could be framed as an attempt to rationally redesign a Britain fit for a global role beyond the EU. After all, who needs Christian morality in the age of human rights?

Don’t get me wrong. I do not warm to the state of affairs that I have just described. Indeed, I feel profoundly alienated from such a country. It is just that I think something like this is unavoidable and that the established church has to get ahead of the situation by transforming itself, rather than play a continuous rearguard action against the inevitable.

But there is opportunity here for the church, as well as loss. What we give up is our traditional role as courtiers. Good, I say. The banners of the New Model Army would proudly proclaim that there is no king but Jesus. And to say that Jesus is the supreme authority is to say that no one else can be – not the Romans, not the pope, not the House of Stuart or the House of Windsor. The Church of England was specifically designed to soften that thought, to make it less dangerous. Christians were to be housetrained. We were to give up all our revolutionary talk of bringing God’s kingdom to earth and settle instead for a warm vicarage and being nice to our parishioners. That settlement is about to be ripped up.

I do not believe that disestablishment will revive the numerical fortunes of the church. Looking at our disestablished cousins, I think it may well mean we will decline at an even faster rate – at least in the short to medium term (and that means centuries in church terms). But please, my fellow Anglicans, we need to go before we are no longer welcome. And go in the knowledge that, as people of the resurrection, we do not fear death – either personally or institutionally.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), Church/State Matters, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(The State) Chuck Croft Chimes in–SC Supreme Court got it wrong on Episcopal Church dispute

I am outraged by the recent S.C. Supreme Court decision that strips the title of 28 churches in the Diocese of South Carolina and awards them to the national Episcopal Church. As acting Justice Jean Toal wrote in a dissent: “The First Amendment prohibits civil courts from resolving church property disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice.”

Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Kendall Harmon for 9/11: Number 343

(You may find the names of all 343 firefighters here–KSH).

On Monday this week, the last of the 343 firefighters who died on September 11th was buried. Because no remains of Michael Ragusa, age 29, of Engine Company 279, were found and identified, his family placed in his coffin a very small vial of his blood, donated years ago to a bone-marrow clinic. At the funeral service Michael’s mother Dee read an excerpt from her son’s diary on the occasion of the death of a colleague. “It is always sad and tragic when a fellow firefighter dies,” Michael Ragusa wrote, “especially when he is young and had everything to live for.” Indeed. And what a sobering reminder of how many died and the awful circumstances in which they perished that it took until this week to bury the last one.

So here is to the clergy, the ministers, rabbis, imams and others, who have done all these burials and sought to help all these grieving families. And here is to the families who lost loved ones and had to cope with burials in which sometimes they didn’t even have remains of the one who died. And here, too, is to the remarkable ministry of the Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, who played every single service for all 343 firefighters who lost their lives. The Society chose not to end any service at which they played with an up-tempo march until the last firefighter was buried.

On Monday, in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn, the Society therefore played “Garry Owen” and “Atholl Highlander,” for the first time since 9/11 as the last firefighter killed on that day was laid in the earth. On the two year anniversary here is to New York, wounded and more sober, but ever hopeful and still marching.

–First published on this blog September 11, 2003

Posted in America/U.S.A., Death / Burial / Funerals, History, Police/Fire, Terrorism

(NT News) Activist for the new Sexual Morality Rodney Croome urges respect in debate and praises Tasmania Anglican Bishop’s pastoral letter as the way the No case should be argued

There are fears debate during the $122 million postal survey process could turn nasty.

“Even though I very much disagree with Bishop Condie’s views on marriage equality, his pastoral letter on the issue is a very good example of how the ‘no’ case should be conducted because it is respectful and based on principle,” Mr [Rodney] Croome said.

“I urge marriage equality supporters not to casually throw around the word ‘bigot’ and I urge those against the reform not to use offensive terms like ‘stolen generation’ to describe the children of same-sex couples.”

Bishop Condie’s letter said that, for Christians, marriage had always meant a commitment of one man to one woman voluntarily entered into for life.

“We shun actions and words that demean and marginalise; we reject discrimination, and especially grieve the way people who identify as homosexual have been treated in our society and churches,” the letter said.

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anthropology, Australia, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology, Theology: Scripture

(AP) Rights Group: Egypt Exerts Growing Control Over Local Media

Egypt’s privately-owned media are increasingly dominated by businessmen linked to the government and its intelligence agencies, a rights group said this week.

Reporters Without Borders, known by the French acronym RSF, said in a Tuesday report that “the regime’s domination of the media continues to grow and is even affecting pro-government media.”

Virtually all Egyptian media outlets are openly supportive of the government, which in recent months has blocked hundreds of websites, including many run by independent journalists and human rights organizations. Authorities have set up media watchdogs to monitor journalists’ work, made it a crime to report “false news,” and have arrested a number of reporters.

The suppression of independent media is part of a larger crackdown on dissent launched after the military overthrew an elected Islamist president in 2013. Since then, Egypt has ranked near the bottom of press freedom indexes.

Read it all.

Posted in Egypt, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Media, Middle East, Politics in General

Princeton University President Eisgruber asks Senate committee to avoid ‘religious test’ in judicial appointments

Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein:

I write, as a university president and a constitutional scholar with expertise on religious freedom and judicial appointments, to express concern about questions addressed to Professor Amy Barrett during her confirmation hearings and to urge that the Committee on the Judiciary refrain from interrogating nominees about the religious or spiritual foundations of their jurisprudential views.

Article VI of the United States Constitution provides explicitly that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” This bold endorsement of religious freedom was among the original Constitution’s most pathbreaking provisions. The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision in Torcaso v. Watkins (1961), holding that the First and Fourteenth Amendments render this principle applicable to state offices and that it protects non-believers along with believers of all kinds, is among the greatest landmarks in America’s jurisprudence of religious freedom. Article VI’s prohibition of religious tests is a critical guarantee of equality and liberty, and it is part of what should make all of us proud to be Americans.

By prohibiting religious tests, the Constitution makes it impermissible to deny any person a national, state, or local office on the basis of their religious convictions or lack thereof. Because religious belief is constitutionally irrelevant to the qualifications for a federal judgeship, the Senate should not interrogate any nominee about those beliefs. I believe, more specifically, that the questions directed to Professor Barrett about her faith were not consistent with the principle set forth in the Constitution’s “no religious test” clause….

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(NR) Did Senators Durbin and Feinstein try to Impose a Religious Test for Office when questioning nominee Amy Barrett?

A judicial confirmation hearing this week stoked fears among conservatives that it is becoming acceptable on the American left to voice intensely anti-Christian sentiments.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing for Amy Coney Barrett — a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and President Trump’s nominee to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals — during which two senators, Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), suggested that Barrett’s Catholic faith might disqualify her from serving as a judge.

“When you read your speeches, the conclusion one draws is that the dogma lives loudly within you,” Feinstein said. “And that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.”

Durbin, meanwhile, criticized Barrett’s prior use of the term “orthodox Catholic,” saying it unfairly maligns Catholics who do not hold certain positions about abortion or the death penalty. “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?” he asked her outright.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Senate, Theology