In their brief, the bishops and ACI argue that the summary judgment ruling by the trial court in the Fort Worth litigation violated the First Amendment to the United States Constitution because it immersed the court in an impermissible “searching” and “extensive inquiry into religious polity.” Under the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence, courts may constitutionally defer to a church authority rather than apply neutral principles of law only if they can identify the appropriate ecclesiastical authority without conducting such an extensive inquiry into church governance. In the case of The Episcopal Church, its governing constitution specifies that the diocesan bishop is “the Ecclesiastical Authority” in the diocese. Acceptance of TEC’s claim that there are other bodies or offices with hierarchical supremacy over the diocesan bishop would require the Court to become embroiled in a searching historical analysis of difficult questions of church polity without any explicit language in the church’s governing instrument on which to base its conclusion. The First Amendment does not permit such a result.
First, look at the summary introduction and then take the time to read the whole argument (36 page pdf).
Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal Episcopal Church (TEC) TEC Bishops TEC Conflicts TEC Conflicts: Fort Worth TEC Polity & Canons * Christian Life / Church Life Church History * Culture-Watch Law & Legal Issues Religion & Culture
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