Monday, August 29, 2005
This article describes a "momentous" church-property ruling involving a dispute over homosexuality and property between an Episcopal church in Newport Beach, California and the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Perhaps it is because the article appears in World magazine -- a publication that is, I believe, Evangelical in orientation -- that the piece appears quite sanguine about the developments it reports: "California courts appear to be the most aggressive in applying the neutral-principles doctrine." Apparently, the local church even filed an "an anti-SLAPP motion against the diocese. In legal jargon, a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) is a suit aimed at intimidating and silencing a critic by making defense so expensive the critic abandons it."
Judge Velasquez agreed with St. James: The diocese had sued only after the parish rejected its pro-homosexual doctrinal positions and the leadership of Bishop J. Jon Bruno. (Bishop Bruno had voted for the consecration of a noncelibate homosexual as bishop and endorsed blessings for same-sex couples.) The judge reasoned this made the case also a free-speech matter for the purposes of a SLAPP ruling.
Even if one is inclined -- as I probably am -- to sympathize with the dissenting, "conservative" parish, it seems to me that the law is reaching awfully far (and many believers are inviting the law awfully far) into internal church matters.