The South Carolina Supreme Court, in a split decision, has refused to take up the breakaway diocese of South Carolina’s motion to rehear the property case they lost earlier this year. Two justices, Costa Pleicones and Donald Beatty, were against rehearing the case while John Kittredge and Jean Toal were for it. Justice Kaye Hearn did not participate in the decision. Since no majority was reached, the rehearing was denied.
Their motion to force the recusal of one of the justices they claim is biased against them, Justice Hearn was also denied, but by unanimous vote. The justices said that the request for recusal came too late in the process.
In a statement from the breakaway diocese, Canon Jim Lewis reiterated the diocese’s commitment to not accepting the consequences of their choices and threatened further costly legal action;
“We are deeply disappointed the Court did not see fit to recuse Justice Hearn. Her personal interest in the outcome of this litigation, beyond the normal matters of law, has clearly influenced its outcome. That is unfortunate not only for the Diocese but for all the citizens of this State with concerns for a fair and impartial judiciary. We also find it disturbing that the weight of the Constitutional concerns raised was not given further opportunity to be addressed. Church property ownership in South Carolina is now gravely complicated.
Given the gravity of all these concerns, we will now give serious consideration to seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court. We believe the number and character of the issues at stake in this ruling merit review by the high court. Because of the long road of litigation that has brought us to this day, all the parties to this case will need to take counsel together before deciding our next steps.
We remain confident that God is at work in even these circumstances to redeem and use them, as He does all things, for His glory and the building up of His Church.”
The continuing Episcopal Church diocese, which calls itself the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, had not issued a statement yet [UPDATE: check out their statement here]. That diocese, currently under the provisional leadership of bishop Skip Adams had earlier offered to settle the case in such a way that most of the disputed parish property would have gone to the breakaway group while the diocesan name, seal and properties would have remained in the hands of the continuing diocese. The breakaway group dismissed that overture due to their apparent over-confidence in their legal case.
Another case, in Federal Court, concerning ownership of the name, seal, and other trademarks of the diocese, is still underway, with mandated mediation scheduled to continue with the next session to begin December 4th.