The Charlotte Observer reports that arguments over the conservative Diocese of South Carolina’s 2012 split from the Episcopal Church will continue in the state Supreme Court this week following an appeal from The Episcopal Church and 40 parishes in South Carolina that remained with TEC, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. After the diocese sued “to protect its identity, the symbols it uses such as the diocesan seal and $500 million in church property,”
Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein, who presided at a three-week trial in Dorchester County in 2014, ruled earlier this year in favor of the diocese that left in a decision that said the diocese owns its name, symbols and property.
The judge ruled that while freedom of association is a fundamental right, “with the freedom to associate goes its corollary, the freedom to disassociate.”
The national Episcopal Church and the almost 40 congregations now comprising The Episcopal Church in South Carolina are appealing Goodstein’s decision to the Supreme Court. The justices have scheduled arguments in Columbia for Wednesday. Excerpted from the appeal:
“People are entitled to choose their own religious beliefs and affiliate with whomever they choose,” attorneys for The Episcopal Church in South Carolina said in documents filed in their appeal.
“These dissidents are dissatisfied with the Episcopal Church’s doctrine and its authority and nobody resents them for that dissatisfaction,” the filing said. “But they cannot band together, co-opt parts of the Episcopal Church itself and seek to turn those parts of the church into something different.”
Coverage in the Island Packet included responses from local priests:
“I’m confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the excellent ruling from the lower court,” The Rev. James Gibson, rector of [breakaway] Holy Trinity Church in Ridgeland said earlier this week.
All Saints Episcopal Church on Hilton Head Island has remained with TEC:
The Rev. Richard Lindsey, rector of All Saints, said he believes the high court will overturn the lower court ruling.
“But I wish it didn’t have to come to a court case. I wish we could work it out without involving the courts,” he said.
Arguments began at 10:30 ET today and are being live-streamed here.
Photo: St. Mark’s Episcopal in Beaufort, part of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, those parishes which have remained with The Episcopal Church.