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Lower Court Judge in South Carolina Issues Ruling Contrary to SC Supreme Court

Lower Court Judge in South Carolina Issues Ruling Contrary to SC Supreme Court

From the Diocese of South Carolina:

South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Edgar Dickson, tasked in November 2017 by the South Carolina Supreme Court (SCSC) with a remittitur to enforce the final judgment of the SCSC which ruled in August 2017 that the diocesan property and 29 parishes should be returned to the parties affiliated with The Episcopal Church, issued an Order earlier today that seems to be contrary to that decision. In his Order, he ruled that the properties instead belong to each congregation, using the application of the neutral principles of law. His order indicates that the historic Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina has no interest in the properties of the breakaway congregations that left the historic diocese and The Episcopal Church.

While the August 2017 final judgement of the South Carolina Supreme Court was based on a finding that these specific diocesan properties had acceded to the 1979 Dennis Canon, Judge Dickson found no explicit accession existed. As noted in the Order, the 1979 Dennis Canon states the following: “All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission or Congregation is located. The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remain a part of, and subject to this Church and its Constitution and Canons.”

In his opinion with the majority in August 2017, SC Supreme Court Justice Costa Pleicones noted that a failure to recognize the “ecclesiastical nature of this dispute,” would “impose a requirement that each local church must specifically accede to the Dennis Canon before it can be bound. Such a requirement entangles the civil court in church matters, for TEC’s Canons specifically provide that ‘no such action shall be necessary for the existence and validity of the trust.’”


The full text of the diocese’s press release is here.


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christopher r seitz

If I may permitted to make a suggestion. TEC should encourage individual Bishops to do the legal work necessary to insure that properties belong to the diocese. A US Supreme Justice warned that a ‘Dennis Canon’ was not sufficient to convey a trust as is necessary. We are seeing that play out in TX, Illinois, and SC. If you want to claim that properties belong to TEC, get it done at the diocesan level. For what it is worth, I believe the case in SC is over. It is highly doubtful that 3 appeals judges are out there. The US Supreme Court won’t hear this, signalling: ‘clean up the mess of your own making’ (a la the above).

Steve Price

To put this ruling in its proper perspective it is necessary to be aware that prior to becoming a Judge this person was a member of the same law firm in whose favor he just ruled. If the South Carolina Supreme Court allows him to nullify its decision there is no justification for the continued existence of the Supreme Court.

christopher r seitz

Are you saying he was with Speights and Runyan in Beaufort?

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