As noted previously, the United States Supreme Court had two cases before it where it had the opportunity to provide a clear direction in the law on denominational trust clause cases and guidance on the ownership of Church property.
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in two unrelated cases involving disputes over church property after the breakaway of a congregation from its parent body. It denied certiorari in Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area v. Eden Prairie Presbyterian Church, Inc., (Docket No. 17-582, cert. denied 6/11/2018). In the case, the Minnesota Court of Appeals held that it was proper to apply the “neutral principles of law” approach, rather than applying the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine, to decide ownership of property of a congregation which had disaffiliated from the Presbyterian Church USA.
The court also denied certiorari in Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina v. The Episcopal Church, (Docket No. 17-1136, cert. denied 6/11/2018). In the case, the 5-member South Carolina Supreme Court in 5 separate opinions resolved a property dispute that arose after a split in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.
It was very disappointing that the Court did not take this opportunity to clear up the law on this important issue. We now have 16 different decisions on points of law that are all related. The takeaway from the decision not to decide the cases is that:
We have prepared a guide outlining the current state of the law with respect to the United Methodist Trust clause that you can download here to find out the current state of the law as it relates to your local Church in your local state. We have also prepared a whitepaper outlining the steps a local church can take to prepare when thinking about departing from a denomination. Please contact me for this paper.
Despite the lack of clarity on the law, there still are paths forward on this issue where we can help your local church depart from the denomination. If you wish to learn more, please contact Daniel Dalton or one of the professionals at Dalton & Tomich, PLC to assist you with this issue.
The attorneys of Dalton & Tomich, PLC have the experience and the knowledge to work with you to develop a legal solution that helps accomplish your goals. Our collaborative approach has helped leaders like you grow businesses and banks, develop and expand churches, and build nonprofit organizations nationwide.
In my role as Administrative Bishop for the Church of God, quite often we are faced with issues that involve local governments and municipalities. Many of these issues that arise in dealing with entities are land use related. I have found Dalton & Tomich’s experience and expertise in this area to be a valuable resource and asset in every situation.
Never one time during a year-long litigation process did Dalton & Tomich demonstrate anything other than Christ-like professionalism. They managed the legal details, while we continued to do church. How they managed themselves, managed our case, and represented our church set the table for me and our church to be where we are today.
Dalton & Tomich’s expertise and experience helped us through a very difficult legal journey, ultimately achieving a favorable outcome. Their personal interest in helping us went “above and beyond” just the call of duty.