bishop of Connecticut may not be sued over his actions in a
struggle over the role of gays in the church, a federal
judge has ruled. U.S. district judge Janet Bond
Arterton in New Haven dismissed a legal challenge
against Bishop Andrew D. Smith, leader of the Episcopal
diocese of Connecticut.
"Whether Bishop Smith acted contrary to, or
outside of, the diocese's own rules is a question of
canon law, not a question of constitutionality of the
challenged Connecticut statutes," Arterton wrote in the
ruling Monday. "A declaration of unconstitutionality
by the court would not redress the plaintiffs' actual
grievances or their theological disputes" with Smith,
The lawsuit, which was filed by six parishes in
2005, accused Smith of violating the civil and
property rights of those parishes. The churches had
sought to break away from Smith's authority because of his
support for the election of an openly gay bishop in
The plaintiffs included five priests and lay
members from six parishes: St. Paul's, Darien; Bishop
Seabury, Groton; Christ Church, Watertown; Trinity,
Bristol; Christ and the Epiphany, East Haven; and St.
The dispute between Smith and the so-called
Connecticut Six has attracted national attention since
Smith's vote in 2003 favor of Bishop V. Gene Robinson
of New Hampshire. The conflict was one of several court
battles in the United States between the church and
The lawsuit said Smith acted illegally when the
diocese seized control of St. John's Episcopal Church
in Bristol in July 2005 after its priest, the Reverend
Mark Hansen, was stripped of his duties by Smith. Smith
later removed Hansen from the priesthood.
The lawsuit also named the Most Reverend Frank
T. Griswold III, presiding bishop of the U.S.
Episcopal Church, and state attorney general Richard
Blumenthal as defendants.
"I am gratified by the decision of Judge
Arterton that it is inappropriate to seek federal
intervention in a matter of church life and
governance," Smith said in a statement. "Noninterference by
civil authorities in religious matters is a
constitutional foundation of our nation, and I trust
that those members of the Episcopal diocese of
Connecticut who appealed to the courts will recognize the
significance of this ruling and will seek to live in
communion with their bishop and this church," he said.
One of the six Connecticut priests, the Reverend
Ronald Gauss of Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, was
quoted by the Hartford Courant in editions prepared
for Wednesday that he was disappointed by Arterton's
ruling and that the priests will decide on their next step.
Five of the six priests, including Gauss, remain
in their posts. They were found to be "out of
communion" with Smith by a committee of the church
following a breakdown in negotiations that would have
allowed the churches to operate under the authority of
a conservative bishop. (AP)