Category : Law & Legal Issues

Bishop Mark Lawrence’s Letter to the Diocese of South Carolina following the recent SC Supreme Court Decisions

From here:

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

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Housing/Real Estate Market, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

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.”

Read it all and follow all the links carefully.

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

(Wash Post) Erik Wemple–NYT’s (former Supreme Court Reporter) Linda Greenhouse boasts of monthly Planned Parenthood donations

Linda Greenhouse has nothing to hide with respect to her charitable activities. Writing in her new book “Just a Journalist: On the Press, Life and the Spaces Between,” the former New York Times reporter notes that she wasn’t content to allow Planned Parenthood to deduct a monthly contribution from her bank account. “It was important to me to write a check every month and sign my name,” writes Greenhouse, who is now a contributing op-ed writer for the same paper. “It was the signature of a citizen. The stories that appeared under my byline, on abortion and all other subjects, were the work of a journalist. If anyone ever thought those failed to measure up to professional standards, they never told me or anyone else.”

That’s one heck of an internal firewall. Skeptics of Greenhouse’s remarkable ethical divisibility are already speaking up. “Rather than meld her identities, she dons or sheds them whenever convenient,” writes Washington Post book critic Carlos Lozada.

The New York Times itself preaches caution when making donations. “Staff members should think carefully about their own contributions to various causes, bearing in mind the need for neutrality on divisive issues,” notes a September 2004 New York Times ethics guide. “Those in doubt about contributions should consult their supervisors and the standards editor or the deputy editorial page editor.”

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Media, Politics in General, Supreme Court

(ABC Aus.) Same-sex marriage Yes vote threatens to cause rift in Australian Anglican Church

While the Federal Parliament continues to debate Senator Dean Smith’s bill, which is expected to legalise same-sex marriage, the Anglican Church still deems it illegal to marry a same sex couple.

The Liberal Senator’s bill was introduced to the Senate after a majority of 61.6 per cent of Australians responded Yes to the national survey on same-sex marriage.

Bishop Gary Nelson’s diocese runs from Geraldton to the Kimberley, the majority of which falls into the electorate of Durack — where 59 per cent voted Yes to change the definition of marriage.

“As has occurred in America, for example where you’ve got two Anglican churches — one who disagrees with same-sex marriage and one who agrees.

“I think that would be a more likely scenario than it getting passed.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Civil Unions & Partnerships, Anglican Church of Australia, Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology

(NYT) Australia Votes for Same-Sex Marriage, Clearing Path to Legalization

A solid majority of Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage in a historic survey that, while not binding, paves the way for Parliament to legally recognize the unions of gay and lesbian couples.

Of 12.7 million Australians who took part in the government survey, 61.6 percent voted yes and 38.4 percent voted no, officials announced on Wednesday morning. Participation was high, with 79.5 percent of voting-age Australians sending back their postal ballots.

“The Australian people have spoken, and they have voted overwhelmingly ‘yes’ for marriage equality,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who called the survey in a move described by advocates as a delay tactic devised to appease his party’s far-right faction. “They voted ‘yes’ for fairness, they voted ‘yes’ for commitment, they voted ‘yes’ for love.”

Read it all.

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

Amicus Brief Filed By Religious Leaders in Support of the Diocese of South Carolina

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.

Posted in * South Carolina, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ethics / Moral Theology, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Other Churches, Parish Ministry, Presiding Bishop, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, TEC Bishops, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Tehachapi News) Life in St. Jude’s Anglican Church after the Split with the The Episcopal Church

In the 1970s, St. Jude’s in Tehachapi formed after a small group of Episcopalians began meeting in members’ homes within Tehachapi. Eventually, and with the assignment of a full-time priest for the Diocese of San Joaquin in 1977, they began worshiping out of a mortuary on the corner of Curry and C streets. Sunday school was held in the old Spencer Lees’ clothing factory where the Tehachapi Police Department is now located.

Eventually, the congregation desired their own church, so Spencer Lees donated 1.2 acres of land on the corner of Curry and Pinon streets, and the congregation raised the needed funds for the new building. The design, general contracting and much of the construction was accomplished by church members, many of whom are still members. The building was completed around 1985, and services commenced immediately at the new church.

“Our congregation built that church,” said Father Wes Clare, a priest of 20 years who has provided spiritual guidance for St. Jude’s in Tehachapi for 15 years.

According to Father Clare, Tehachapi is home to only five remaining Episcopalians. With no Episcopalian congregation in town to use the abandoned church, the Episcopalian Diocese decided to dispose of the asset.

Said Smith, “A few weeks ago, I noticed there was a ‘for sale’ sign up, so I called up the realtor and asked them how much, and they said it was $415,000.”

Read it all.

Posted in Law & Legal Issues, TEC Conflicts: San Joaquin, TEC Departing Parishes

(Guardian) ‘Any taboo has gone’: Netherlands sees rise in demand for euthanasia

This year, 18,000 requests for help to die have been made, including 2,500 – up from 1,234 in 2015 – to the Levenseindekliniek – the only medical facility in the Netherlands that specialises in euthanasia.

The clinic is a charity whose costs are covered by a standard Dutch health insurance policy.

Steven Pleiter, director at the clinic, said that in response to growing demand he was now on a recruitment drive aimed at doubling the number of doctors and nurses on his books willing to go into people’s homes to administer lethal injections to patients with conditions ranging from terminal illnesses to crippling psychiatric disorders.

Pleiter has 57 doctors on call but he believes he could need more than 100 by the end of next year with a growing number of people in Dutch society seeking an organised death.

Read it all (emphasis mine).

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, The Netherlands

(The Atlantic) The Quiet Religious-Freedom Fight over Zoning Laws That Is Remaking America

A Church outgrows its building. It finds a vacant warehouse in a middle-class neighborhood, close to the highway and convenient for its congregants. Mortgage money is raised, plans are drawn up, the sale is approved. All that remains is a technicality: securing a zoning-code exemption.

Three years and two lawsuits later, the church is at last in its new building—and out $1.2 million. It holds services in the lobby because it ran out of money to renovate the room that was to be the sanctuary.

This problem was supposed to be solved. Seventeen years ago, Congress unanimously passed a law, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, to prevent cities and towns from using zoning as a weapon against groups that want space to worship. At the time, everyone cheered a rare moment of legislative success. In practice, though, few congregations have the time, knowledge, money, or energy to pursue the legal process set up by RLUIPA, leaving many in a desperate limbo with no place to pray.

By the time they take on a zoning challenge, many religious groups are already struggling to find and retain members, and to get by on shoestring budgets. Without an adequate place to gather, they miss opportunities to assemble in study, service, and prayer. The stakes are high for towns, too. Churches, synagogues, and mosques influence life well outside their walls: People who belong to religious institutions are more civically engaged than their secular neighbors. They are more likely to serve on school boards, volunteer at charities, and join clubs. In the absence of these institutions, communities can become fractured and isolated. Neighborly infrastructure decays…

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Law & Legal Issues, Religion & Culture

(AJ) Freedom from slavery theme of 2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The 2018 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will focus on freedom from slavery, with prayer topics that are of special importance to the Caribbean. These topics include the plight of Haitian refugees, human trafficking, violence, the debt crisis and credit union movement, strengthening families and colonial reconciliation.

Developed by an ecumenical team in the Caribbean, the theme for the week, “Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power” (Exodus 15:6), represents the abolition of enslavement in its many forms, according to background material included in the Week of Prayer resource booklet.

Exodus 15:1–21, the song of Moses and Miriam, was chosen as a motif because of its themes of triumph over oppression, it adds.

The choice of theme reflects the Caribbean’s colonized past, from the islands’ Indigenous inhabitants who were enslaved and, in some cases, exterminated, to the African slave trade and the “indentureship” of people from India and China. “The contemporary Caribbean is deeply marked by the dehumanizing project of colonial exploitation. In their aggressive pursuit of mercantile gains, the colonizers codified brutal systems which traded human beings and their forced labour,” says the Week of Prayer resource booklet for 2018.

Read it all.

Posted in Ecumenical Relations, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Law & Legal Issues, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Politics in General, Sexuality, Spirituality/Prayer, Violence

Mediation Update–Both the Anglican Diocese of South Carolina+the new Episcopal Church Diocese in SC announce its recessed until early December

Both “sides” involved have stated the mediation with Senior U.S. District Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. has been recessed until December 4-5, 2017.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Wash Post) Kathleen Parker–Blame the eruptions of sexual harassment claims on Bill Clinton

It is little wonder, then, that other men of the era didn’t feel compelled to curtail their proclivities, or that women felt their power to fight back minimized by the first lady.

Fast-forward to the present and each day seems to produce the name of another man accused of sexual harassment. Though they are being lumped together in round-up stories, it would be unfair to put them all in the same cell. There’s a world of difference between what movie mogul Harvey Weinstein is alleged to have done and, say, what another recently named Mother Jones writer is alleged to have done. Apparently, among other offenses of minor note, he gave gratuitous shoulder rubs.

With all due sympathy to victims of abusive behavior, I confess to a certain reticence as #MeToo momentum continues to grow. This isn’t because I know a few of the alleged harassers, who are disgusting if the accusations are true, but because we are becoming too comfortable with condemnation without due process. Life is unfair — and women inarguably have been on the receiving end of unfairness for long enough. But life shouldn’t be a zero-sum game and men, even those one dislikes, deserve a fair hearing before their life and livelihood are taken away.

Karma will take care of the rest.

Had the Clintons played their cards differently, our country might have become less coarse, and our infantile impulsiveness less pronounced. It might not have taken 25 years for women to find their voices. More men might have treated their female colleagues with greater respect. Who knows? Hillary Clinton might have become president. And Donald Trump, whose disrespect toward women is epic, might not have.

Karma, baby: It’s Bubba’s fault.

Read it all.

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

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Sexuality

(Local Paper) Edward Gilbreth–Strong judicial disagreements fuel the South Carolina Anglican/Episcopal controversy

Another petition supporting the rehearing filed Sept. 25 by various churches and the Diocese, includes these arguments:

“The sole basis on which Appellants have argued, and the Court has so held, that St. Philips (as an example) should be divested of its property is that St. Philips Church, in 1987, acknowledged the purpose of the parish corporation as being ‘in accord with the Articles of Religion’ of the national church (or more precisely the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, according to the Articles of Restatement filed with the SC Secretary of State by St. Philips in 1987.)

“The Articles of Religion of the national church were established in 1801, one hundred and seventy-eight years prior to the Dennis Canon. The articles of Religion, similar to those for other Protestant Churches, contain nothing more than a summary of the religious doctrine, theology and beliefs of the national church and St. Philips Church. The Articles of Religion do not mention the constitution or any of the canons of the national church, let alone the Dennis Canon adopted 178 years after the establishment of the Articles of Religion.”

Interestingly, The Episcopal Church has never required subscription to the Articles, which now appear in a section called “Historical Documents” in the back of the Book of Common Prayer.

All this, along with the controversy surrounding Justice Hearn’s participation in the initial ruling due to her family involvement in a church with ties to the national church, makes for interesting consideration as the mediation for and possible rehearing of the Diocese’s case approaches.

Read it all.”>Read it all.

Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

Local Paper Editorial–End South Carolina Anglican/Episcopal church dispute with mediation

The Diocese of South Carolina has called that…ruling into question because of state Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn’s involvement in the Episcopal Church. In fairness, the motion for a rehearing should be granted, and Justice Hearn should recuse herself. But the rehearing request has yet to be acted on.

The purpose of mediation beginning Monday is to determine how to implement the August decision as amicably as possible. Even so, it still offers an opportunity for the disaffected church groups to preclude further legal battles over the valuable and historic properties in question.

Neither the Diocese nor the Episcopal Church in South Carolina may ever bridge the spiritual and philosophical divides that caused their separation. Nor need they do so. Both groups are free to worship as they see fit — a principle enshrined in the Constitution.

But an agreement should be reached that lets the Diocese of South Carolina and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina part ways while remaining in the churches they have called home for so many generations.

Failure to do so would do further harm to the Christian spirit of unity and goodwill that ought to bring Lowcountry churches together rather than tear them apart. Reaching a mediated accord could avoid years of additional lawsuits and appeals and divisions among friends and neighbors.

Read it all.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop, Stewardship, TEC Conflicts: South Carolina

(Church Times) Church leaders, charities, and politicians up the plea for action on modern slavery

Tackling modern slavery in the UK and supporting the victims of its crimes “demands our attention” and immediate action, Church leaders, charities, and politicians have agreed this week.

On Monday, 50 Church, police, and policy leaders met at the House of Commons to debate the current UK strategy for countering modern slavery. The Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, who chairs the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel was among them.

“The seminar provided an invaluable opportunity for politicians, law enforcement agencies and those working with and for victims to share concerns, strategies and wisdom,” he said. “There was also an opportunity to consider reactions to the recent report about police practice, and for various sectors to adjust their contributions in the light of the challenges identified.”

Campaigner: the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, chairs the Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner for the UK, Kevin Hyland, who also attended, said that the number of people living in slavery in the country was likely to be considerably higher than the current estimate of 13,000. The latest statistics suggest that the number of victims of slavery has increased by at least 300 per cent in the past five years (News, 20 October).

Read it all.

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