Anglican Ink reports that the Episcopal Church suffered another significant litigation setback earlier this week when a South Carolina Court ruled that the former Diocese of South Carolina and its parishes had lawfully seceded from the national church, and that those leaving were entitled to retain all of their property (link to the court’s opinion can be found here). The court ruled – correctly in my virew – that nothing in the Episcopal Church canons prevent a diocese from withdrawing from the national church, and that, in fact, if the canons contained such a provision it would likely violate the diocese’s First Amendment rights of free association. I’ve not yet had a chance to fully digest this opinion, and may have more to say once I have had the chance. The Episcopal Church will certainly appeal this decision. Given earlier rulings adverse to the national church from the South Carolina Supreme Court, however, it seems to me that there is very little likelihood that TEC will have succeed on appeal.
This decision is another in a recent string of litigation defeats for TEC. This South Carolina decision is consistent with the outcome of a similar case in Illinois involving the Diocese of Quincy. And of course TEC has suffered debates in the early rounds of a similar case in Texas involving the Diocese of Fort Worth, and lost a significant South Carolina case involving parish property. Nice to see the Episcopal Church continuing its losing streak.