Judge: Local church belongs to parish, not Episcopal diocese
August 17 2005 12:00 AM ET
A judge ruled
Monday that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles can't
confiscate the property of a parish that disassociated
itself from the denomination over a gay bishop's ordination.
Orange County superior court judge David C.
Velasquez dismissed a lawsuit brought by the diocese
against the dissident St. James Church in Newport
Beach, saying that the parish's actions were protected by
freedom of speech. The ruling means that St. James
will retain legal possession of its church buildings,
property, and financial records.
Two other Episcopal parishes—All Saints'
Church in Long Beach and St. David's Church in North
Hollywood—are challenging lawsuits the diocese
filed against them in Los Angeles County. Those cases will
be heard next month. "It is a great relief to the
loyal members of our church to...know that the
sanctuary and grounds where we gather every Sunday
will remain a safe harbor for us," the Reverend Praveen
Bunyan said Monday in a prepared statement.
Lawrence Ebiner, attorney for the diocese, said
after court Monday that the diocese hasn't decided
whether to appeal.
Members of the three parishes voted last summer
to disassociate from the Episcopal Church USA after
the ordination of a gay bishop in the Diocese of New
Hampshire. They announced they were placing themselves under
the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in Uganda. The
diocese then sued to retain the church's parish
property and building. The Episcopal Church is the
U.S. branch of the worldwide Anglican Communion. (AP)