The news that Virginia's chief deputy attorney general William C. Mims may succeed his boss Bob McDonnell, who has stepped down to pursue the Republican nomination for governor, brought to mind this previous post about Mims, who seemed, at one point, more than willing to use the machinery of the state to advance the agenda of his church.
Mims was a member of one of the breakaway Episcopal Churches when he introduced a bill in the Virginia legislature that would have made it easier for such churches to maintain their property when they left the church.
In an editorial, The Washington Post suggested that Mims' intervention was exactly the sort of thing that the separation of church and state was meant to prevent:
You might expect that in its short legislative session the Virginia General Assembly would have more important business than intervening in internal arguments within the Episcopal Church over gay rights. But a bill pending in the state Senate would make it far easier for Episcopal congregations upset at the church's consecration of a gay bishop in New Hampshire to bolt from the national church yet keep their buildings and property. The bill, championed by Sen. William C. Mims (R-Loudoun), responds to a real problem: Mr. Mims argues persuasively that Virginia law on the subject is archaic. But his bill would make matters worse, not better. It should be voted down.
While some Episcopal congregations are angry about the church's toleration of gay clergy, they have not, by and large, left the church. One reason may be that their property is, while purchased with local money, held in trust for the national church. So if they leave, they leave their church behind physically as well as spiritually. Mr. Mims's bill would change that. It would give a congregation's property to the local congregation when it secedes from a church unless the property is specifically deeded to the national church or -- under an amendment he is proposing -- unless a trust agreement explicitly designates the national church as having its use. The bill is not explicitly directed at the Episcopalians, but it seems to respond directly to their current fight. And its result would be that conservative Virginia congregations could leave the Episcopal Church without becoming homeless.