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Judge: Local
church belongs to parish, not Episcopal diocese

Judge: Local
church belongs to parish, not Episcopal diocese

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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.

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)

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