Skip to comments.St. Luke's Anglican Church's Petition to United States Supreme Court Denied
Posted on 03/03/2010 11:36:07 AM PST by CondoleezzaProtege
LA CRESCENTA, Calif. March 1, 2010 St. Lukes Anglican Church has learned today that the Supreme Court of the United States has denied its petition for writ of certiorari filed in December of last year.
St. Lukes asked the Court to decide whether California courts violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by conferring on The Episcopal Church and its Diocese in Los Angeles a special power not available to nonreligious persons or nondenominational churches to seize St. Lukes property and take over its corporation based on its religious affiliation.
Since its founding, the members of St. Lukes have remained steadfast and loyal in their commitment to the Holy Scripture and to the historic teachings of Christianity as affirmed throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion. The increasing expression of non-orthodox belief and practices found in The Episcopal Church demonstrated to the members of St. Lukes that The Episcopal Church has chosen a path that no longer reflects these cherished principles. Therefore in February of 2006, after prayerful and well-considered deliberation, over ninety percent of St. Lukes members voted to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church and realign themselves with another province of the worldwide Anglican Communion. St. Lukes felt it had a legal right to make this choice as it had owned its property free of any trust for decades, and is a California nonprofit religious corporation governed by a board of directors and its members.
Shortly after disaffiliation, St. Lukes was sued for control of the church property and assets by both the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and by the national Episcopal Church. They claimed that by an internal rule of The Episcopal Church, a unilateral trust had been made on all churches in the denomination and therefore, while members might be free to disaffiliate, the church property belonged to the denomination. In the series of legal decisions that followed, the California courts ultimately agreed with this assertion and on October 12, 2009, forced the congregation of St. Lukes out of its property in La Crescenta where it had faithfully worshiped for over 80 years.
St. Lukes had hoped that the United States Supreme Court would hear its case not just for the sake of its own members, but also for the sake of other congregations across the country, regardless of denomination or faith, who own their property. St. Lukes legal representatives maintain that under longstanding law, no one can unilaterally impose a trust over someone elses property without their permission. But California courts have now ruled that certain denominations those that claim to be a superior religious body or general church can unilaterally impose a trust on the property of spiritually affiliated but separately incorporated local churches, resulting in the local church forfeiting its property if it ever chooses to leave the denomination. These rulings in California conflict with similar rulings in other states and St. Lukes lawyers intended to argue that California violated St. Lukes first amendment rights by giving preferences to certain kinds of churches that claim to be hierarchical; rights that other churches and non-religious associations are not entitled.
The congregation of St. Lukes - now re-incorporated under the name St. Lukes Anglican and continuing vibrant and faithful worship in rented facilities is grateful that its long legal battle is now over and offers its thanks to all who have prayed for its continued success. St. Lukes remains supportive of sister congregations here in California and in other parts of the country who are facing similar trials and prays that Gods will be done.
* My friend suggests that the fact the SCOTUS is mainly composed of Catholics has something to do with why the court sided with the Episcopal Diocese and ultimately rejected the case:
"The Roman Catholic believes, in keeping with his theology, that any given church is under the complete authority of the diocesan Bishop, who is ultimately under the authority of the Pope in Rome. This account is a little simplistic, but it serves the purpose of showing why a Protestant would likely have accepted the case, and ruled in favour of the parish congregation." ~ SBQ
Nope there is case law on this. Fact is that originally St Luke’s incorporated as part of the Espicopate and hence the property is and was used by them with permission from the diocese. It’s fine if they re incorporate but they don’t get the property that rightfully belongs to the Episocpate.
This is basically a contract law case, not unlike a little league group that has equipment and wants to walk away from the parent organization. You can go but the equipment stays.
If St Lukes wanted something different then they should have incorporated differently
this has nothing to do with religion of the court ( and not that most Catholic churches incorporate as corporation sole to avoid this kind of stuff)
What would have happened if the church had been incorporated before the Diocese had been incorporated ?
moot point. didn’t happen
Not yet. But Virginia has a case wending its way through the courts, its on appeal right now.
If the church incorporated as part of the Epsicopal Church in America then it will be bound by the canons and articles of the parent church. That is the point of all of these cases. When a church incorporates as part of an overseeing parent structure then there is always a pledge of fidelity to that church.
If you wish to leave the Episcopal church the best and most ethical thing you can do is walk away and establish your own church, affliate if you must but do not be surprized when legal issues arise
And the relevant case law on the subject -- and it's voluminous -- extends back to at least 1871. I read the California ruling, and it was very comprehensive and complete. It's absolutely no surprise that the Supremes refused the petition.
My own parish was recently involved in a similar suit ... the folks who tried to keep the building got absolutely crushed in court, in part because their legal team tried to argue around the precedents.
They brought in some really pathetic expert witnesses ... who also got crushed. I wonder if the California parishes employed the same experts.... There seems to be quite a cottage industry of expert witnesses built around cases like this, cashing in on parish's triumphs of hope over reason.
Funny, the legal niceties didn’t apply to Henry VIII when he seized church properties.
When are they going to get returned to the Catholic church?
Which is interesting but irrelevant, given that the legal system in 16th Century England was rather significantly different from ours.
And, come to think of it, our system was designed expressly to avoid the sorts of legal abuses practiced by the British government and monarchy....
"The Roman Catholic, in keeping with his theology" (what are we, insects or something? -- why the clinical use of the third-person singular?) also believes that the local Episcopalian church is essentially a nice association of Christian laypeople in seriously impaired union with Rome, headed by a nice layman they call their "priest," who is supposed to be obedient to another nice layman they call their "bishop," none of whom have any special authority that the Catholic Church is bound to recognize.
(This is entirely not the case with the Orthodox Churches.)
In other words, nothing about the Catholic Church is really relevant to this case, to "the Roman Catholic" acting "in keeping with his theology".
He’s just saying why a Catholic is more inclined to have sympathies for a diocese/power structure because it is how Catholicism operates.
The House of Bishops looked like the Senate and the House of Deputies like the House of Representatives.
The House of Bishops elected one of their own as Presiding Bishop with few powers other than convening the House and presiding over the General Convention. The Presiding Bishop for the first 120 years more or less, was also the sitting Bishop of a Diocese, which is also the case in most Anglican provinces today.
Some 20 or 30 years ago the General Convention changed the Constitution (or Canons) demanding all parishes sign over titles to property and ownership of bank accounts, trusts and endowments to the Diocese - the Dennis Canon. How the Presiding Bishop has become so powerful I have no idea because the power she wields is the very power the first Episcopalians feared.
It is sad. If you are that unhappy with your affiliation as a congregation, shake the dust off your shoes, and go down the road. Start over and don’t complain.
You misrepresent the situation. The Denis Canon was enacted in response to a US Supreme Court decision involving (IIRC) a property dispute in the Presbyterian Church. The court ruled in favor of Presbyterian Church, partly on the grounds that it was hierarchichal. The Majority Opinion actually stated that churches with similar hierarchical structures could mitigate the risk of similar lawsuits by enacting rules to that effect. The Dennis Canon was the Episcopal Church's response to that ruling.
As it happens, the Dennis Canon merely formalized something that had already been dealt with in previous cases, but based on a different legal theory, that of deference to governing church bodies, including the Episcopal Church.
Prior to enactment of the Dennis Canon, the courts had adopted the so-called "Neutral Principles" approach, which could potentially create ambiguity about property ownership, unless the governing rules of the church were changed to specifically define who owns what.
A Neutral Principles analysis had already resulted in a seminal Colorado Supreme Court decision in favor of the Diocese of Colorado (Mote vs. Diocese of Colorado), without reference to the Dennis Canon. The key point was that parishes that have "acceded" to the governance of the larger church have agreed to all trusts imposed by that association. In particular, the parishes agree to abide by the Constitution and Canons of the church, and are required to submit an "instrument of donation" that explicitly signs over their property to the diocese.
Not true. Episcopal means "of, having, or constituting government by bishops."
The relationship of the Bishop to the parishes, priests, and people of his diocese is quite obviously hierarchical.
Similarly, the representative forms of government -- National Convention, Diocesan Convention, and Vestry actions -- are heirarchical. So, too, is the relationship of the Rector to the parish.
Even the consecration of Samuel Seabury, the first bishop of the Episcopal Church, depended on establishing a hierarchical relationship with an established church, presumably to enter the Apostolic progression. Seabury was ultimately consecrated by the Scottish Episcopal Church.
You are probably correct that they wanted to avoid the authoritative governance of the sorts exercised by Rome and the Church of England.
So they modeled the church polity along the lines of the national legislature, comprising a "Senate" and a "House," in the form of House of Bishops and House of Deputies (lay and clergy). Those bodies meet every three years at the National Convention.
Delegates to the National Convention are appointed by the various Diocesan conventions, and so on.
Make no mistake, though: although it's not like a Pope, the National Convention is still "national central governance," in that this convention is empowered to make rules that apply to all dioceses and parishes of the Episcopal Church.
The Diocesan conventions are subject to the rulings of the National convention, and at the same time are empowered to create rules that apply within the Diocese, and also to the parishes within the diocese.
The Rector and vestry of a parish is responsible for the local governance of the parish, subject to the Constitution and Canons of their own diocese and the national church.
It's a hierarchical system.