From The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, a press release concerning its response filed today in answer to the breakaway group’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.
A breakaway group’s petition to have the United States Court review the South Carolina Supreme Court’s decision regarding church properties does not present any reviewable questions of federal law, and should be denied, according to a response filed today by attorneys for The Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC).
The 41-page response is in answer to the petition for a writ of certiorari filed in February by a group that announced in 2012 that the Diocese of South Carolina and most of its parishes were leaving The Episcopal Church. The group filed a lawsuit in 2013 seeking to control diocesan and parish properties, and a Dorchester County court found in their favor in 2015. But in August 2017, the state Supreme Court overturned the decision, ruling that the property of the diocese and 29 parishes are held in trust for The Episcopal Church and its recognized diocese, TECSC.
A key point raised in the response filed Monday is that the cert petition does not present issues of federal law that are reviewable by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision by the majority of the SC Supreme Court applied state law to find in favor of The Episcopal Church in the case of the 29 parishes.
“As a result, there is nothing for this Court to review: because the judgment against petitioners rests on adequate and independent state law grounds, no action of this Court could change the outcome in their favor,” the response says.
In its August 2017 decision, a majority of the justices found that The Episcopal Church and its diocese adopted rules requiring that parish property be held in trust for the denomination, and all of the parishes involved in the current petition agreed to that rule.
The U.S. Supreme Court receives thousands of petitions for certioriai each year, and hears only a small fraction of them. The nine justices regularly hold conferences to determine which cases merit further review, and a decision on the South Carolina petition is expected to come before the end of June. If the court chooses not to grant certiorari, no further appeals are possible.