Circuit Court Blocks the Use of Diocese of South Carolina Identity By Anyone Outside of the Diocese

Posted by Kendall Harmon

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St. George, SC, January 23, 2013 – South Carolina Circuit Court Judge Diane S. Goodstein today issued a temporary restraining order that prevents The Episcopal Church (TEC) and parishes and individuals associated with it from assuming the identity of the Diocese of South Carolina.

The judge’s order states, in part: “No individual, organization, association or entity, whether incorporated or not, may use, assume, or adopt in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina.”

The order specifically prohibits all but a handful of Diocesan employees, directors and trustees who are specified by name from using the Diocese’s identity.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts SchoriTEC ConflictsTEC Conflicts: South CarolinaTEC Polity & Canons* Culture-WatchLaw & Legal Issues

36 Comments
Posted January 23, 2013 at 5:30 pm

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1. tjmcmahon wrote:

Thanks be to God.  And let us pray for a similar permanent decision in 10 days.

Can’t see what TEC would have to complain about, they gave up being the Protestant Episcopal Church some while back.

January 23, 8:06 pm | [comment link]
2. mspk wrote:

YES!!!

January 23, 8:07 pm | [comment link]
3. Pageantmaster [Katie bought Welby] wrote:

Golly.  One in the eye for the Presiding Goblin and Gollum Booth Beers.

Very interesting to read what the Judge had to say in the Order:

The South Carolina Supreme Court has “explicitly reaffirmed that when resolving church dispute cases, South Carolina courts are to apply the neutral principles of law approach” All Saints Waccamaw v. Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina

and

The statutes upon which part of this action is based and the cases clearly establish that existing South Carolina corporations are to be protected from those who seek to assume their identities.  Injunctive relief is specified in the statutes as the remedy for that conduct.  “When seeking a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff need not prove an absolute legal right; the plaintiff need only present ‘a fair question to raise as to the existence of such a right’”....A prima facia showing has been made as to the likelihood of success on the merits

A good start, and the Court calling a rightful halt to the Presiding Bishop and her plans to set up a Vichy administration at the weekend.

Bravo, and God bless the wonderful Diocese of South Carolina.  Prayers for you and for Mere Anglicanism starting tomorrow.

Some days I sit and think. Other days I just sit!!

January 23, 9:03 pm | [comment link]
4. Milton Finch wrote:

Now all that is needed is individuals and police officers to cart off any and all offenders of the injunction at the upcoming fake convention.

January 23, 10:19 pm | [comment link]
5. David Hein wrote:

Good!

January 23, 10:20 pm | [comment link]
6. Undergroundpewster wrote:

I guess the rump Dio to be named will be at Kinkos tonight reprinting the programs for their convention this week.

January 23, 11:01 pm | [comment link]
7. Milton Finch wrote:

And if they rename their fake diocese, it will prove that a diocese can leave and just did!  If they go ahead and use the Diocese of South Carolina’s name and seals trying to protect the charade, then Schori, who is the instigator, can and should be put in jail…or at least led out of the gathering in handcuffs.

January 23, 11:11 pm | [comment link]
8. Undergroundpewster wrote:

#7 Check.

January 23, 11:18 pm | [comment link]
9. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

The part to me about ECUSA’s odd mantra that, in essence, individuals may leave the denomination but that’s the limit of allowable leaving, has been that the mantra flies in the face of the fact that dioceses are, in fact, the basic structural element comprising the denomination—an especially obvious truth in the case of dioceses that predate the denomination. Also important is the fact that parishes are also constituent parts of a diocese and do not have the same relationship with the national church, and, thus, courts should recognize that under civil law there is no requirement for diocesans to accede to the dictates of the national denomination with regard to how they may wish to accommodate parishes wishing to leave ECUSA. Decisions such as those rendered by courts in South Carolina may, at long last, open some legal eyes to the less-than- radical understanding that even where there is a finding that an entity is “hierarchial”, such finding does not dispose with the need for stringent analysis of the nature of how the particular hierarchy is constituted in order not to travel down the wrong path to the detriment of a parish, a diocese, and even the denomination itself.  ECUSA certainly won’t admit it, but this latest decision is a real blessing for the denomination itself.

January 24, 1:21 am | [comment link]
10. SC blu cat lady wrote:

#6, Pewster, LOL! You are right. They should be but don’t count on that happening as their legal strategy depends on them to continue to use the name of the Diocese of South Carolina.

#7, Milton, While it would be interesting to see KJS lead out in handcuffs,  would not that be unseemly??  However, I wonder if some Citadel Cadets would like to be in downtown Charleston on Saturday during their “con”-vention? That could be an interesting show of Citadel force! Semper Fi!

January 24, 4:26 am | [comment link]
11. Katherine wrote:

Outstanding!  It will be interesting to see how the ECUSA group proceeds.  As to handcuffs, I assume the penalties for violation will be civil and not criminal.

January 24, 9:16 am | [comment link]
12. Peter O wrote:

The 815 Diocese is **STILL** using the seal and the name on their website. How long can that go on for unchallenged?

http://www.episcopaldioceseofsc.org/

January 24, 9:31 am | [comment link]
13. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Peter, Give them time. The TRO was just given late yesterday afternoon around 5 PM.  I don’t know but the Diocese may have already contacted the ISP and was rebuffed without a TRO. Now with a TRO, the Diocese’s actions may have more legal heft. Truthfully, if the TEccies were such good people, wouldn’t they change the name of their website to reflect their new diocese. Then again, we must remember that to continue to the use name and seal of the diocese they are usurping is part of 815’s legal strategy.  Gotta give them points for determination even when facing facts and court rulings that are against them.

Truthfully, I wonder how much of their “con”-vention will be taken up with strategizing a new way to file a law suit. I hope vonRosenburg has some good legal minds on his team. He will need them.

January 24, 9:51 am | [comment link]
14. Pb wrote:

They should form the Diocese of Lower South Carolina and move on.

January 24, 10:46 am | [comment link]
15. Teatime2 wrote:

Hooray!!! I’m so glad that the news is good and the ruling just!

January 24, 11:33 am | [comment link]
16. Branford wrote:

Yes, their website is still up and using the name and seal as well. Shall we take bets on when it might be closed down? It’s already almost 11:00 a.m. I say it should be down by 3:30 today. Any other takers?

January 24, 11:55 am | [comment link]
17. Katherine wrote:

What is the legal name, or are the legal names, of the Diocese?  I see the Diocese of South Carolina and the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina referred to in legal papers.  It could be that “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina” is the chosen name for the TEC group, which would be okay if it’s not DioSC’s moniker.  They need to get the Diocese’s official seal off their site.  And the Diocese needs to look into paying a fee to Google to be sure that its site comes up as a result of a search for “epsicopal diocese south carolina,” which it doesn’t right now (11:10 a.m. 1/24/13).

January 24, 12:15 pm | [comment link]
18. Katherine wrote:

In fact, at the moment a search for “diocese of south carolina” isn’t bringing up the real Diocesan site.  Y’all need to fix that.

January 24, 12:16 pm | [comment link]
19. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

Interesting expurgated article here

http://catholicandreformed.blogspot.com

January 24, 12:21 pm | [comment link]
20. Katherine wrote:

I take that back.  It does come up, but not if you add “espicopal” to the search terms.

January 24, 12:23 pm | [comment link]
21. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

At last!  Some long overdue clarity is beginning to appear at the legal level, even if confusion continues to reign about what the rump diocese will end up being called, or what price it will have to pay for its egregious attempt at corporate identiy theft.

An encouraging gift for the real diocese as the Mere Anglicanism conference starts today.  It’s about time that the reckless and misleading TEC strategy started to fall apart and collapse like the house of cards that it is.  The pseudo-Christians promoting a pseudo-gospel of theological and moral relativism have pinned their legal hopes on yet another falsehood, the patently erroneous claim that only individuals can leave TEC, not parishes or dioceses.  I’m glad to see that pseudo-claim beginning to be officially debunked.

David Handy+

January 24, 12:44 pm | [comment link]
22. Ralph wrote:

The whole wide world is watchin’.

The as-yet-unanswered question is whether TEC will ignore the court order, or postpone their little meeting until they can get another court to side with them.

I would think that it would not be in the interest of the national TEC leadership for the SC folks to re-form under a different name.

January 24, 1:12 pm | [comment link]
23. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

I’m optimistic that before long, the impact of some long-overdue court decision is going to have the effect of administering last rites for the attempted legal overkill of the so-called Dennis canon by recognizing that this “canon” is basically a tacked-on device that clearly conflicts with the structure and constitution of ECUSA, and is thus, in effect, amounts to a dead letter. Once this threshold is crossed,  ECUSA’s legal gravy-train will have come to an crashing halt and the shackles will then be off for some in ECUSA who are frustrated by decisions of the national leadership but have felt their hands tied by legal “knots”.

January 24, 1:32 pm | [comment link]
24. jamesw wrote:

My expectation is that the TEC affiliated group will ignore the TRO.  Just read the article that Jeremy links to in post #19.  The TEC affiliated folks think that this decision is not just wrong and corrupt but wrong and corrupt on steroids.  The “South Carolina Episcopalians” group doesn’t seem to have a very firm grasp on reality, and they seem to think that this decision was an “inside job”, and that there is no way that any court could reasonably conclude that the real Diocese of SC still exists with Lawrence as bishop.

So my guess is that the TEC folks (despite what their attorneys might advise them) likely believe that it is inconceivable that this TRO will be maintained at the full hearing, and further, they probably think that any violation of it will be forgiven.

That’s my guess.

January 24, 2:24 pm | [comment link]
25. BrianInDioSpfd wrote:

Episcopal News Service now has an article regarding the TRO:
ENS Article

It is anticipated that the group meeting that day may choose a temporary name under which to conduct its business and operate at least during the time until the Feb. 1 hearing.

The article seems to carefully avoid referring to the continuing group in a manner that would violate the TRO.  Interesting.

January 24, 2:59 pm | [comment link]
26. beyondfedup wrote:

And yet, the Episcopal Diocese of SC website is still up and running, shield posted on it and all.  Interesting indeed…

January 24, 3:22 pm | [comment link]
27. SC blu cat lady wrote:

beyondfedup- Well what can I say? As Jamesw mentioned a solid connection reality is not part of the loyalist group’s thinking- “delusional”  would best describe their thinking. For every day that group’s website is up with the name and seal of the real diocese, they may be incurring fines. One commenter over at Stand Firm mentioned that ignoring court orders can become very expensive very quickly to anyone who ignores them ..... so it will be very interesting indeed to see what happens on February 1 in Columbia,SC.

January 24, 3:54 pm | [comment link]
28. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Katherine and all, As I mentioned elsewhere there are three names for the Diocese which the SC Secretary of State recognizes as belonging to the diocese whose bishop is +Mark Lawrence. The diocesan seal is also a registered trademark of the diocese.

I suspect that the other group’s website will remain up for the duration of however long this legal proceeding/trial goes on in the SC courts. They have no intention of changing their name. To do so would destroy their legal argument that has worked so well in other states.

January 24, 4:04 pm | [comment link]
29. SC blu cat lady wrote:

#16 Branford, My post was at 4:04 (must be CST as it is only 3:06 Est as i type this) and their website was still up. They are not going to take it down. Definitely not until Feb 1 hearing. Perhaps not even after that date as they are convinced of the wrongness of Judge Goodstein’s TRO. If the TRO becomes an injunction on Feb 1, I suspect they will still ignore it. Reality based thinking is not one of their strengths!

January 24, 4:10 pm | [comment link]
30. Ross wrote:

#23 wmresearchtrianglenc says:

I’m optimistic that before long, the impact of some long-overdue court decision is going to have the effect of administering last rites for the attempted legal overkill of the so-called Dennis canon by recognizing that this “canon” is basically a tacked-on device that clearly conflicts with the structure and constitution of ECUSA, and is thus, in effect, amounts to a dead letter. Once this threshold is crossed,  ECUSA’s legal gravy-train will have come to an crashing halt and the shackles will then be off for some in ECUSA who are frustrated by decisions of the national leadership but have felt their hands tied by legal “knots”.

Unless I’m mistaken (and I am not a lawyer, so that’s entirely possible) that would have to be a Federal court ruling.  Other states have ruled in favor of the Denis Canon, explicitly or implicitly; which did not prevent the SC courts from ruling against it.  That cuts both ways: the SC ruling is not going to compel other states to follow along.

It’s certainly true that this ruling is a big win for +Lawrence’s diocese, and likely augurs well for ultimate victory in the SC courts.  That is good news for +Lawrence’s diocese, of course; but if the situation happens in another state down the road, those courts will have a mixed bag of precedents to look at, so I doubt the SC ruling (assuming it’s favorable to +Lawrence’s diocese) will be definitive.

And even assuming that the ruling stands (which, as I said, seems more likely than not) TEC is still going to act as though the TEC diocese is the actual continuation of the Diocese of South Carolina—even if they are forced by the courts to choose a new name and seal.  I would imagine that it will just become a footnote in the history of the diocese—“On such-and-such a date, the bishop and many members of the DSC departed to form a new diocese, but were unfortunately able to convince the courts that they still owned the name and marks of the original diocese.  Thus, the DSC adopted its new name and seal, etc. etc.”

As I’ve said before, there are really two overlapping entities in dispute:  the ecclesial entity and the legal entity.  The courts will adjudicate (have already begun to adjudicate) who controls the legal entity and therefore the property it owns, including its name and trademarks.  The ecclesial entity will be claimed by both sides, and each will argue that the other is wrong… but so far as that goes, neither side is particularly harmed by this disagreement, so there’s no real need to find a resolution to it.

———————————————————————-
Who am I?  Visit my web page or my blog  to find out.

January 24, 6:00 pm | [comment link]
31. Katherine wrote:

I think Ross #30 has it about right as far as South Carolina goes.  I think the U.S. Supreme Court has already declined to involve itself, leaving property disputes to state law.

January 24, 8:54 pm | [comment link]
32. jamesw wrote:

Actually, on second thought, I’ll bet that the faux convention simply decides to rename the “Diocese of South Carolina” something else, assume a new seal, and then declare that this newly named entity is the real continuing diocese that owns everything, etc., etc.  They will continue to use the DSC seal and name until then (i.e. until tomorrow) and then plead to the courts that it took them a couple of days to take down their website.

January 24, 9:19 pm | [comment link]
33. Marie Blocher wrote:

Their website is back up but the Seal and the forbidden name are gone.
They just refer to themselves as The Episcopal Church in SC, and say it is continuing….
They can’t bring themselves to admit they are starting a new diocese, any more that those in Ft Worth could. They have to pretend it is a continuing diocese. so they can lay claim to the property and money.

January 24, 10:34 pm | [comment link]
34. SC blu cat lady wrote:

Ross,
The Curmudgeon has already explained on his own blog why this won’t be going to the Federal Courts in the state anytime soon. You should read the Curmudgeon’s blog. As to a precedent, every state is different and several states have not recognized the precedent in SC. So that is nothing new.

I get what you are saying about the ecclesial entities vs the legal entities. However don’t forget that the majority of the parishes have decided to remain with the diocese and not be part of this splinter group. The majority have made a decision to remain with the same ecclesial as well as legal entity. The splinter group who must now form another entity will not be recognized in history as the Diocese of South Carolina. They will be recognized as something else which started in Jan. 2013 not 1785.

January 24, 11:35 pm | [comment link]
35. Ross wrote:

#34 SC blu cat lady:

I’m not impressed with the Curmudgeon’s track record in predicting how courts will actually rule.

As for history, I have no idea what it will say.  Quite likely it will depend on whose history you read.  Nothing new there, of course.

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Who am I?  Visit my web page or my blog  to find out.

January 25, 2:08 pm | [comment link]
36. wmresearchtrianglenc wrote:

#30. Ross.Thank you, and let me offer some rationale for my comments re optimism for the dimmer future of the Dennis canon (herein “Dennis”) in litigation in state courts. First, there is an obvious difference between ACTUALITY and MERE ASSERTION. The key issue isn’t the issue isn’t the need for a federal court decision vs. a state court decision because Dennis is basically a canonical assertion that property is considered to be held in trust for the benefit of the denomination and Dennis merely begs the important question for a state court: Given the particular denomination involved, is Dennis’ assertion valid to create a trust under the laws of this state, to create a trust? (Parenthetically, Dennis’ language probably doesn’t even contain language such as “...to the extent permitted by state law concerning the creation of trusts’, etc.). Dennis understandably arose as an attempt to reduce the potential damage to the denomination from losses that could arise from disaffected parishes and dioceses, however, obviously, and attempt may indeed miss its mark.

Secondly, although courts are permitted to decide cases involving church property issues by applying either neutral principles of law or by deferring to church law in the case of a hierarchical church, courts are, importantly, very cautious in dealing with church matters because they stand in danger of making decisions in what might be basically viewed as essentially an internal matter involving the denomination. This caution has undoubtedly favored ECUSA’s position. But back to the main point: If a state Supreme Court decides that under neutral principles of law Dennis is inadequate to create a trust in that state, and the court also notes that in the opinion of expert witnesses (and I’m confident of the abundance and qualifications of such witnesses), the intended application of Dennis is in basic conflict with both the structure and constitution of ECUSA, other states now have a key decision that sets forth an important RATIONALE based on solid analysis of neutral principles of law supported by persuasive opinion of expert witnesses to be in complete accord with the structure and constitution of a hierarchial church. (As an aside, if ECUSA’s Dennis canon position was so strong legally, why did it move with so unhesitatingly and decisively again bishops who signed an amicus brief?).

What would be the fallout from the demise of the above canon: Will dioceses and/or parishes be able to leave ECUSA with a free pass? I don’t believe so, because there are certainly issues involved in changes of this nature involving e.g., financial matters such as loss of parochial and diocesan financial contribution to the national denomination for a number of programs and funds and the identification of a departing diocese and/or parish. Clearly, negotiations can deal with such matters in a straightforward manner that protects the rights of interested parties.

January 25, 4:28 pm | [comment link]


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