Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Another legal victory for the Diocese of South Carolina: Court rejects rump diocese appeal

CHARLESTON, SC, March 18, 2014 – The South Carolina Court of Appeals today rejected an appeal that would have delayed a trial in the Diocese of South Carolina lawsuit to protect diocesan and parish property from seizure by The Episcopal Church (TEC) and its local group, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (TECSC).

The Court decided that TEC and TECSC could not appeal a lower court ruling on the process to be used in discovery.

The Court of Appeals effectively said it will not tolerate legal shenanigans to delay a trial to decide whether the denomination may seize South Carolina property, including churches and the diocesan symbols. In asking the Court of Appeals to dismiss the action, the Diocese of South Carolina argued that TECSC is appealing a court order that is “unappealable”.

South Carolina’s Court of Appeals justices agreed.

“We are grateful that the court recognized that TEC and TECSC are misusing the judicial system to delay resolution of this case,” said the Rev. Jim Lewis, Canon to the Ordinary of the Diocese. “Their strategy of using legal motions to delay court decisions caused eight months to be wasted when they asked the federal court to override the state court injunction. As in that matter, the courts sided with the Diocese of South Carolina.”

TEC has a long history of dragging out legal battles, apparently in hopes of draining the resources of parishes and dioceses it seeks to punish for leaving the denomination. According to the latest published reports, TEC has spent more than $40 million on litigation in the past few years. TEC routinely appeals court decisions in hopes of wearing down its opposition – and to intimidate parishes and dioceses that wish to leave the denomination.

Now that the Court of Appeals has denied the delaying-tactic appeal, the state court case is still scheduled to go to trial before Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein in July.

The Diocese of South Carolina disassociated from The Episcopal Church in October 2012 after TEC tried to remove its Bishop, the Right Reverend Mark Lawrence. Following the Diocese’s decision, 49 churches representing 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members voted to remain in union with Bishop Lawrence and the Diocese and not with TEC.

The Diocese has consistently disagreed with TEC over the nature and authority of scripture, and specifically of what most members of the global Anglican Communion believe to be a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ’s teachings optional for salvation.