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Episcopal Church Wins Property Dispute

California judges say local churches cannot keep property after departing denomination.

A long awaiting ruling of the Californai Supreme Court was released today concerning three conservative parishes that left the national Episcopal Church. The ruling is a huge set back for conservatives.

According to media reports:

In an unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court ruled that the property belongs to the Episcopal Church because the parishes agreed to abide by the mother church's rules, which include specific language about property ownership.

St. James Church in Newport Beach, All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. David's Church in North Hollywood pulled out of the 2.1 million-member national Episcopal Church in 2004 and sought to retain property ownership.

Each church held deeds in their names to the property. The court ruled that Episcopal Church canons made it clear the property belonged to the individual parishes only as long as they remained part of the bigger church.

"When it disaffiliated from the general church, the local church did not have the right to take the church property with it," Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin wrote for the seven-member court.

Reaction to the ruling predictably have leaders in the Episcopal church declaring complete victory.

I will update this entry with comments and reactions in a few hours' time.

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