Episcopal property dispute in Va. Supreme Court Tuesday
By Michelle Boorstein
A bitter dispute about theology, homosexuality and land that split at least 15 Episcopal churches in Virginia and has cost tens of millions in legal fees is headed to Virginia's Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Nine churches are left in the lawsuit, which pits the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and the national church against the nine conservative congregations whose members voted to break away and join more traditional overseas branches of the umbrella denomination - the Anglican Communion.
A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge ruled in 2008 in favor of the breakaway churches, agreeing with their argument that there was a "division" in the churches under a Civil War-era law that governs such breaks and says the majority gets the property. But those who remained with the Episcopal Church argue that the state law is unconstitutional meddling with a religious issue and that there was no legal division, but rather a small rebellion in the larger Communion among those unhappy with the advancement of equal rights for lesbians and gay men.
Similar disputes about the rights of gays and lesbians to marry and lead congregations are happening across the faith world, and the Virginia cases are among those closely watched because so many churches were involved and such expensive historic real estate at stake. However the legal issue is particular to Virginia so won't be legally precedent-setting, but could provide momentum for whichever side wins.
However, other faith groups have weighed in, including several denominations in support of the Episcopal Church, including national offices of the Methodist Church, and African Methodist Episcopal Church Zion, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Seventh-day Adventists and the Presbyterian Church (USA). In support of the breakaway congregations are the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and the state of Virginia's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli.
The result will have concrete ramifications for members of the churches whose land is at stake. Since the votes in late 2006, minority groups of liberals who want to stay with the Episcopal Church have been meeting in other churches' and waiting for a resolution.
The state Supreme Court will hear arguments from both sides in the morning and a ruling is expected in June. Any appeal will go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
David Waters| April 12, 2010; 4:48 PM ET | Category: God in Government Save & Share:
Previous: Church re-enlisting in anti-nuke campaign | Next: Time for an atheist on the Supreme Court?
Posted by: GiveMeThat | April 12, 2010 10:53 PM
Report Offensive Comment
Posted by: GiveMeThat | April 12, 2010 11:14 PM
Report Offensive Comment
The comments to this entry are closed.