Friday, May 6, 2011

St. James vs. L.A. Diocese property fight back on

From California-

St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach and the Los Angeles Diocese of the Episcopal Church have been fighting over the ownership of a Lido Village church building since 2004, when the local congregation split from the national denomination over the ordination of a gay man as a bishop.

The case has already gone to the state Supreme Court twice on pre-trial questions. After the high court's ruling Thursday morning, the question of who owns the property should finally be heard by a trial court.

Many observers thought the case was over in January 2009, when the Supreme Court issued this opinion: "Although the deeds to the property have long been in the name of the local church, that church agreed from the beginning of its existence to be part of the greater church and to be bound by its governing documents.... When it disaffiliated from the general church, the local church did not have the right to take the church property with it."

Lower courts disagreed over whether that opinion constituted a final ruling; the trial court thought it had a trial to hear, the appeals court said no, it was over, and Thursday, the Supreme Court reversed the appeals court.

In its ruling, the high court said that it never meant to establish ownership of the property two years ago.

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