Friday, April 04, 2008

Virginia judge issues preliminary ruling on application of state statute

Don't ya know ECUSA hated to acknowledge this! From EpiscopalLife Online [boldface mine]:

Constitutional challenges, conflicting claims to Episcopal Church property remain unresolved

A judge ruled April 3 that it was appropriate for 11 Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) congregations to file property claims under a portion of Virginia state law that is triggered when there is a so-called "division" of a church or religious society.

Fairfax County Judge Randy I. Bellows did not rule on the property issues themselves or whether the Virginia statute violates the Episcopal Church's or the Diocese's First Amendment rights. He said only that the CANA congregations, some of which include former members of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, could file their claims under Section 57-9(A) the so-called “Division Statute” of the Code of Virginia.

"We are obviously disappointed in yesterday's ruling by the trial judge against the Episcopal Church and the Diocese that involved one Virginia statutory issue in the case," the office of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a statement.

"While we believe that the Court's conclusion that Virginia's unusual 'division' statute applies to the current situation in the Diocese, the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion is incorrect, there will time enough in the future to seek review of that decision if it becomes necessary."

Jefferts Schori's office noted that "this decision does not bar the contentions of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese regarding control over the property of the departing congregations that will be presented to the Court in [October]."

The Diocese of Virginia said in a statement posted on its website that "it is simply wrong" to allow those who have left the Episcopal Church "continue to occupy Episcopal Church property while loyal Episcopalians are forced to worship elsewhere."

Bellows held in his 88-page letter of opinion and order that the conflict constitutes a "division" in a "'church or religious society'" within the meaning of Section 57-9(A). . .

Read it all.

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