Thursday, October 21, 2010

Appellate judges: Episcopal case 'confusing'

From Fresno-

The appellate justices who will decide whether the U.S. Episcopal Church or the breakaway Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin owns the diocese's church properties on Wednesday appeared uncertain about the court's authority to rule on the issue.

"We are involved in a very confusing question of power of the church versus power of the court," said 5th District Court of Appeal Justice Dennis Cornell, who repeatedly compared the schism between the two church groups to the Civil War.

Justice James Ardaiz also acknowledged the case was "confusing."

The California Supreme Court already has sided with the national Episcopal Church in a similar property battle involving three breakaway Southern California parishes. But this dispute represents the first time an appellate court has had to decide whether a breakaway group can keep church property and assets if an entire diocese -- not just a parish -- splits from the Episcopal Church.

The justices, however, questioned whether it was even within the court's authority to rule on the issue. The three-member panel is expected to rule in about a month.

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