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Courts avoiding church dispute
Waterbury Republican-American ^ | December 14, 2006 | Editorial

Posted on 12/14/2006 6:34:28 AM PST by Graybeard58

Since 2003, when it consecrated an openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, the Episcopal Church has faced a simmering revolt within its ranks. Conservatives in the church have contended same-sex partnerships violate Scripture. In California, the Fresno-based Diocese of San Joaquin recently made clear its displeasure with the direction of the church in the United States by voting to affirm its membership in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The action was considered a possible step toward a break with the national church.

In Connecticut, six parishes and their pastors were disciplined for being "out of communion" with Bishop Andrew Smith on the issue. Specifically, Bishop Smith supports Bishop Robinson while the dissenting pastors and their congregations believe in good conscience they cannot. One of the Connecticut pastors, the Rev. Mark Hansen of St. John's Episcopal Church in Bristol, eventually was stripped of his duties and removed from the priesthood, ostensibly on unrelated financial matters. Among the other churches involved in the dispute are Christ Episcopal Church of Watertown and Trinity Church of Bristol.

It is easy for anyone who reads Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13 or, most significantly, Romans 26-27, to sympathize with the conservatives' stance. Less easy to accept is the conservatives' decision to challenge the Connecticut diocese in court.

In August, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven ruled the dissenting churches cannot sue Bishop Smith in federal court over his statements or actions. Wrote Judge Arterton: "Whether Bishop Smith acted contrary to, or outside of, the diocese's own rules is a question of canon law, not a question of constitutionality."

In short, Judge Arterton properly decided the dispute was an internal church matter. The federal government, she said, didn't have a pony in that race; case dismissed. At the diocese convention in October, Bishop Smith made clear the dissenting churches had a more traditional recourse: "If you cannot tolerate the life and openness of the Episcopal Church, then honorably move on."

Instead, the dissenting churches and their pastors filed an appeal of Judge Arterton's ruling last month. They said they also intended to sue in state court. Let us hope the state and federal courts continue to give their lawsuits the same short shrift. The worst imaginable precedent would be for the government to meddle in a denomination's internal doctrinal disputes.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Government

1 posted on 12/14/2006 6:34:28 AM PST by Graybeard58
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To:; litehaus; gogogodzilla; A Balrog of Morgoth; dirtboy; nutmeg; NavVet; Leisler; ...

Ping to a Republican-American Editorial.

If you want on or off this ping list, let me know.

2 posted on 12/14/2006 6:35:38 AM PST by Graybeard58 (Remember and pray for SSgt. Matt Maupin - MIA/POW- Iraq since 04/09/04)
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To: Graybeard58

Is this ping list for the ECUSA controversy or for editorials in the Republican-American Editorial. If the former, please add me to your list. Thanks.

3 posted on 12/14/2006 6:42:00 AM PST by ableLight
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To: Graybeard58; sionnsar
Pinging to the Anglican list.

This is a knotty problem.

It's all very well for the courts to say they won't interfere in internal church disputes, but there's no easy answer. Some states allow it where secular property (church buildings, pension funds, etc.) are involved. Otherwise, rogue elements in a church can run roughshod over people who have spent their lives and dollars building up a parish.

4 posted on 12/14/2006 6:42:59 AM PST by AnAmericanMother ((Ministrix of Ye Chase, TTGC Ladies' Auxiliary (recess appointment)))
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To: ableLight
Is this ping list for the ECUSA controversy or for editorials in the Republican-American Editorial. If the former, please add me to your list. Thanks.

It's the latter.

5 posted on 12/14/2006 6:44:55 AM PST by Graybeard58 (Remember and pray for SSgt. Matt Maupin - MIA/POW- Iraq since 04/09/04)
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To: Graybeard58
Aside from the ordination of homosexual clerics, the real issue here is who owns the dissenting congregations and property, the congregations or the church itself. That might be an internal church call since it's church law and church contracts that the courts would be interpreting. At the very least there's a strong chance the courts will initially defer to the Church's internal proceedings and only look at their outcome in an appellate role.
6 posted on 12/14/2006 6:45:54 AM PST by libstripper
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To: ahadams2; ableLight; rogue yam; neodad; Tribemike; rabscuttle385; cf_river_rat; fgoodwin; ...
Thanks to AnAmericanMother for the ping.

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7 posted on 12/14/2006 7:07:11 AM PST by sionnsar (?|Iran Azadi| 5yst3m 0wn3d - it's N0t Y0ur5 (SONY) | UN: Useless Nations)
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To: Graybeard58
Romans 26-27,

Typical reporter. He means Romans 1: 26-27

8 posted on 12/14/2006 7:12:17 AM PST by AppyPappy (If you aren't part of the solution, there is good money to be made prolonging the problem.)
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To: Graybeard58

"An internal church matter..."

Sure, if you are talking about who is a priest and who isn't, who can take communion and who can't, fine.

But when you are talking about real estate, whose title is granted and registered by the state, and when you are talking about contracts, enforceable by the state, then it is not MERELY an internal church matter at all anymore.

Suppose we "leave it to canon law", the bishops decide in their own favor, but the parishes refuse to budge and physically eject the bishops from the property. Then the BISHOPS go to court to enforce their internal rulings. And once again the enforcement becomes a state matter. Inevitably.

9 posted on 12/14/2006 7:26:20 AM PST by Vicomte13 (Aure entuluva.)
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To: Graybeard58

Not to belabor the point in my last post, but inside the United States, or any modern state which reserves unto itself the absolute monopoly of violence (in the form of the police and military authorities), NO other organization, including religions, no matter how free, is ever WHOLLY free of the power of the state, and indeed the state is ULTIMATELY the arbiter in any dispute, without exception, that is bitter enough.

Because if a dispute is bitter enough, the side that loses an argument or an internal procedure will not respect the rules, will DEFY the rules and change them, and PHYSICALLY sit on whatever they have. Suppose these parishes, the conservative ones, really believe in their hearts that ECUSA is not just in error, but is actually serving the DEVIL. Then cooperating with it, when the internal rules say they must go, is cooperating with the Devil. So, they go through the internal motions, lose, and then tell the Bishops and his minions to go pack sand. The Bishop and his cronies show up at the Church, but the wardens REFUSE to hand over keys and block the door.

If the Bishop or his minions physically push their way inside, they have committed the civil crime of assault. There is absolutely NO exception, NONE WHATEVER, that allows ANY organization, religious or otherwise, to commit assault to enforce its rules. ALL organizations, no matter how private, are EXCLUSIVELY limited to PERSUASION. If they win the argument, but the other side folkds it arms and refuses to act based on rules or reason, that is the END of the line for private action. If one side will not PHYSICALLY budge, no matter how "right" the other side is in its arguments, if it PHYSICALLY touches the ones standing their grounds, they have committed civil criminal acts, and are liable for prosecution. The police and courts do not give a damn if the REASON the assault happened was because somebody wasn't obeying the bishop. A bishop enforcing his full powers within the Church has ZERO authority to physically assault another person EVER.

This is why possession is nine-tenths of the law, because the stubborn possessor can ONLY be removed from possession by the threat of physical force BY THE STATE. NOBODY else, no OTHER organization in all of society - not churches, not clubs, not companies - has the rlegal right to PHYSICALLY assult another in order to get its way. If these churches shut their doors to the bishop and ignore him and his officials, their SOLE recourse is to go to the police, who will do NOTHING without a court order.

And so, the court will be forced to decide every internal issue of every church if one side or the other refuses to yield when it loses. If one side or other refuses to respect the internal rules, and will not yield when they lose, then the state must decide the case, because the state, and the state alone, can send in the sherriff to physically drag the other person out. If anybody ELSE does that, even if he or she is legally RIGHT, it's a crime and they go to jail.

Example: some guy doesn't pay his rent to the landlord for 6 months. The landlord has to go to court to get an eviction, and the sherriff has to effect the physical eviction. If the landlord physically evicts the non-payer, the landlord has committed a crime and will be prosecuted and quite possibly jailed for assault. About the only exception to the absolute monopoly on violence held by the state is the right to self-defense againt threats to life or limb. That never applies in the case of an internal dispute within a Church.

So, the bottom line is that if the dissidents (either way) are stubborn enough, the state will be FORCED to decide the issues. Fold arms and sit on the property. Be unreasonable. Only the police can enforce an evcition.

10 posted on 12/14/2006 7:41:51 AM PST by Vicomte13 (Aure entuluva.)
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To: Graybeard58

Property issues are a matter of civil law, not canon law. I don't see how the civil courts can be avoided.

11 posted on 12/14/2006 8:15:03 AM PST by Unam Sanctam
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To: Vicomte13
ECUSA is not just in error, but is actually serving the DEVIL

The problem is that ECUSA (or PECUSA...or TEC...or whatever it's called now) is definitely not serving God any more. Judging by the new Presiding Bishop's obession with the U.N. Millennium Development Goals, ECUSA is definitely serving The World now, and we Anglicans know who is the "prince" of this world.

12 posted on 12/14/2006 2:15:34 PM PST by rabscuttle385 (Sic Semper Tyrannis * Allen for U.S. Senate in '08)
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To: Vicomte13

Actually, in theology and morals, 'in error' and serving the Evil One are equivalent concepts, and if persistent even when correction is given 'in error' is called 'in heresy'. (Of course, PECUSA decided in the late 1960's that 'heresy is no longer a relevant category.')

13 posted on 12/14/2006 3:49:59 PM PST by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know. . .)
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