Diocese of South Carolina and 29 Parish Churches File Motion for Rehearing in State Supreme Court

Court has issued a standard that negatively impacts religious
organizations over similar secular organizations

COLUMBIA, S.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Citing significant departures from both state and federal
precedents, the Diocese of South Carolina and 29 parish churches today
filed a petition
for rehearing in the South Carolina Supreme Court regarding its recent
ruling in Appellate Case No. 2015-000622. In 2012, the Diocese of South
Carolina, along with 50 of its congregations voted to disassociate from
The Episcopal Church. In a complicated and sharply divided ruling
consisting of five separate opinions, the S.C. Supreme Court ruled on
August 2 this year that parishes which had “acceded” to the national
church’s ‘Dennis canon’ are subject to a trust interest in their
property by The Episcopal Church (TEC). Only eight congregations were
judged to have full rights to retain their property.

In a decision that partly reversed the February 2015 Circuit Court
ruling of Judge Diane Goodstein, the Supreme Court significantly changed
court precedents in multiple areas and divested the property rights of
at least 28 congregations and over 20,000 church members.

Grounds for Rehearing

While there are multiple legal issues in the ruling that merit
rehearing, the most crucial are possibly the constitutional ones
controlling cases of religious property. As stated in the conclusion to
the petition: “The majority has fashioned a neutral principles standard
for religious organizations under South Carolina property, trust and
corporate law that admittedly would not be applied to secular
organizations. It then applied it to religious organizations today in a
fashion it did not do 8 years ago involving the same issues between the
Plaintiff Diocese, The Episcopal Church and a parish church. It does so
when no appellant asked the trial court, either during trial or post
trial, to apply such a standard. As a result, the majority would
transfer the real and personal property of South Carolina religious
organizations, many of whom preexisted The Episcopal Church and the
United States, to a New York religious organization. This establishment
of one religion over another impacts the choices these South Carolina
religious organizations (and those associated with them) made in the
free exercise of their religion. They chose to disassociate, exercising
their right of association under the United States and South Carolina
Constitutions which this Court has recognized. Yet, according to the
majority, that constitutionally protected decision, requires a massive
transfer of centuries old real and personal property when it would not
be required for a secular South Carolina organization.”

The petition concluded: “These are serious issues for Respondents,
Appellants and for all religious organizations in South Carolina. This
Court should grant a rehearing.”

The petition pointed out that the Court’s ruling will severely disrupt
the business lending and title insurance relationships of any religious
organization that has a national affiliation.

Motion to Recuse

A motion
to recuse Justice Kaye G. Hearn was also filed by the Diocese, the
Trustees and the same parish churches. It was signed by 26 South
Carolina attorneys of record in this case and was based on the expert
affidavit testimony of Nathan
M. Crystal
, Professor and Adjunct Professor of Ethics at the
University of South Carolina and NYU Schools of Law and Lawrence
J. Fox
, Professor of Ethics at Yale University.


A copy of today’s filed Petition, Motion and Affidavits can be found

Supreme Court’s Current Ruling and Video of Oral Arguments:

Judge Goodstein’s Orders from Trial Court:

South Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct
Canon 2 – http://www.sccourts.org/courtreg/displayRule.cfm?ruleID=501.0&subRuleID=Canon%202&ruleType=APP
3 – http://www.sccourts.org/courtreg/displayRule.cfm?ruleID=501.0&subRuleID=Canon%203&ruleType=APP

History of the Case and The Diocese of South Carolina:

About the Diocese of South Carolina

The Diocese was founded in 1785 by the parishes of the former South
Carolina colony. Four years later the Diocese became a founding diocese
of the Episcopal Church. Based in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, the
Diocese is one of the oldest religious districts in the United States
and counts among its members several of the oldest, operating churches
in the nation.

The Diocese of South Carolina is a member of the Anglican Church in
North America (ACNA) and recognized by Anglican Dioceses and Provinces
around the world, many of whom have broken fellowship with The Episcopal
Church. In 2013 the Diocese joined the global Fellowship of Confessing
Anglicans and entered into a formal relationship of Provisional
Primatial Oversight with the Global South Primates. It was welcomed as a
member diocese of the ACNA in June 2017.


for Diocese of South Carolina
John Hellerman, 202-841-8153
Hunter, 843-696-1757