Brief writing completed in Virginia appellate case

Brief writing in the appellate phase of the property dispute between the Diocese of Virginia and the CANA congregations is completed. Oral arguments before the State Supreme Court are next.

The briefs of the Diocese, the Episcopal Church, the CANA congregation, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the friends of the court can all be found at the Diocese of Virginia website. (You may find it convenient to right click on the individual briefs in order to open them in a new window.)

In this case, the Diocese is the appellant. The CANA congregations are the appellees.

In its reply brief the diocese argues,

The need to reject appellees’ view has been articulated as follows:

For religious institutions to fulfill their role, they must be permitted to control their own organization; to formulate and enforce their own doctrine; to choose their own structure;…and to adopt their own set of relationships between believer and institution and between hierarchy (if any) and subordinate. If the government assumes control over these matters, then the church loses its independent existence. Free exercise cannot survive if the internal affairs of religious institutions are subject to governmental control.

Michael W. McConnell (counsel for amicus Becket Fund), Neutrality Under the Religion Clauses, 81 Nw. U. L. Rev. 146, 159 (1986). Religious freedom includes the freedom to be part of a hierarchical church and subject to its rules, and “the church property cases” exemplify the need to respect “the right of the church to organize its internal affairs in accord with its own doctrine.”

The Becket Fund referred to above has entered the case as an amicus in Support of the CANA congregations. The diocese is using the Becket Fund’s counsel’s words against his own argument.

The Becket Fund is the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty: protecting the free expression of all religious traditions. It has a Catholic bent. As its attorney explains, in the quote above, in this case it has entered as an opponent to the free expression of the religious tradition of the Episcopal Church.

The Becket Fund supports religious liberty as long as it fits with its social agenda. It founder and president is Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson. He opposed Prop 8 and is not careful in choosing his allies.

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  1. tobias haller

    John, I’m not following your last two paragraphs. To me it sounds as if the Becket Fund is filing on the side of the Diocese. What am I missing?

  2. John B. Chilton


    What you are missing is that the Becket Fund is filing on behalf of the appellees. The Diocese is making Becket’s lawyer eat his own words.

    I’ll do a rewrite so that who is appellant and who is appellee is made crystal clear.

  3. tobias haller

    Thanks, John. It wasn’t clear which “friends” were which.

  4. tgflux

    How can a legal firm w/ a “Catholic bent” befriend CANA? Don’t they know that any legal argument they made which helps CANA, RC dissidents could use to take RC properties away from their dioceses? [Would they then argue that “congretionalism uber alles” ONLY applies for conservative congregations? O_o]

    JC Fisher

  5. tgflux

    Um, make that “congregationalism uber alles.” [Preview, preview, preview again!]

    JC Fisher

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