From South Carolina-
Attorneys for two factions of South Carolina Episcopalians made their case Thursday to a federal judge in Charleston over the proper venue for their legal battle — state or federal court.
In a courtroom jammed with more than two dozen attorneys, District Judge Weston Houck heard arguments arising from the Episcopal schism.
The conservative Diocese of South Carolina last year separated from the more liberal national Episcopal Church over theological issues, among them gay marriage and the consecration of homosexual bishops.
The diocese then sued in state court seeking to protect the use of its name and a half billion dollars’ worth of property controlled by its parishes. Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein issued an injunction saying only the parishes that left the denomination may use the name the Diocese of South Carolina.
When the diocese left, it had 70 congregations with about 29,000 parishioners. About two dozen parishes and worship groups remaining in the national church formed a new diocese and had the lawsuit moved to federal court.
Officials of the diocese that separated have characterized the maneuver as an attempt to move a state property rights case to a court that will support the national denomination’s seizure of local assets. Attorneys for the diocese asked Houck to move the case back into state court.
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