Breakaway South Carolina diocese files for rehearing

As expected, the breakaway diocese in lower South Carolina has filed a motion for a rehearing of the recent South Carolina Supreme Court opinion which ruled largely in favor of The Episcopal Church and the continuing diocese.

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As expected, the breakaway diocese in lower South Carolina has filed a motion for a rehearing of the recent South Carolina Supreme Court opinion which ruled largely in favor of The Episcopal Church and the continuing diocese.

Two of the judges on the five-judge have since retired. It is understood that the judges who heard the case in 2015 are the ones who decide whether to accept or reject the motion.

The breakaway diocese also filed a motion for the recusal of Judge Kaye Hearn, something it did not do when the case was originally heard by the court in 2015. It is unusual if not unheard of for (1) a request for recusal on rehearing and (2) the request for recusal to be addressed in the form of a motion to a court rather than a request to the judge herself.

The Charleston Post & Courierhas a report. Some excerpts:

The Supreme Court’s five separate opinions revealed much disagreement among the justices but effectively reached the conclusion that civic law (“neutral principals (sic)”) did not necessarily trump church law; that The Episcopal Church is a hierarchical organization with a right to govern according to its canon laws; and that one such law — the Dennis Canon, which states that dioceses and parishes hold property in trust for the church — had been wrongly disregarded by the breakaway group.

Two of the justices clearly decided in favor of the [breakaway] diocese; two others were clearly on the side of The Episcopal Church; and one was the swing vote, determining that most of the breakaway parishes had in fact acceded to the Dennis Canon.

The [breakaway] diocese, which is led by Bishop Mark Lawrence, simultaneously filed a motion on Friday to recuse Justice Kaye Hearn from participating in the rehearing (should the court agree to do so). … Because she remained Episcopalian, opposing the actions of Lawrence and the many parishes that left the church, Hearn should remove herself from the case, the diocese argues.

The breakaway diocese issued a press release via Businesswire in which they describe their case, and provide links to their filings to the court.

From August 18, here is the continuing diocese’s statement Important facts to understand about The Episcopal Church in South Carolina and the state Supreme Court decision. The continuing diocese was not quoted in today’s Post & Courier report.

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