Tuesday, May 5, 2009

California Church Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court

California Church Appeals to U.S. Supreme Court

St. James’ Anglican Church, Newport Beach, Calif., announced today that it will file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court in its dispute with The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Los Angeles.
“The constitutional issues St. James’ will raise before the U.S. Supreme Court go far beyond St. James’ or even the Episcopal Church,” the legal team for the congregation said in a news release. “Every local church, temple, synagogue, parish, spiritual center, congregation, or religious group is possibly at risk of losing its property upon a change of religious affiliation. As a result, religious freedom is suppressed, as those who have sacrificed to build their local religious communities are now at risk of having their properties taken based on some past, current or future spiritual affiliation.”

The congregation of St. James’ voted overwhelmingly to leave The Episcopal Church in 2004, and in 2005 a judge in Orange County Superior Court ruled in favor of the congregation, striking the complaint brought by the Diocese of Los Angeles. The diocese appealed, however, and in 2007 an appellate court reversed the lower court ruling. The congregation appealed to the California Supreme Court which found in favor of the diocese in January 2009. The state supreme court ordered the case be returned to the lower court for trial with new instructions. That case has not yet begun.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear only a small percentage of the appeals made to it. In its release, the St. James’ legal team believes its appeal stands a good chance of being heard in part because there are dozens of church property cases in various state courts, and the local laws regarding the handling of these cases are contradictory.


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