Federal judge remands Episcopal Diocese case to state court
U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck remanded the case to the South Carolina Circuit Court. In informing the parties, Judge Houck said,
“If this Court determined that a case may be removed based on federal question jurisdiction whenever a defendant attributed a federal constitutional issue not alleged or advanced in a well-pleaded complaint, federal question jurisdiction could potentially be expanded to all cases containing tacit First Amendment issues.”
Diocesan officials expressed their gratitude for the decision.
“We are very pleased that Judge Houck remanded the case to state court,” said Jim Lewis, Canon to Bishop Lawrence. “The issues involved are essentially those of legal identity and are wholly determined by state law, so the most appropriate place to settle is clearly in state court, where we first took the matter.”
With the case remanded, it returns to the court of South Carolina Circuit Judge Dianne S. Goodstein.
The Diocese disassociated from the Episcopal Church after the denomination attempted to remove Bishop Mark Lawrence. Following the Diocese’s decision, 49 churches representing 80 percent of the Diocese’s 30,000 members have confirmed their disassociation from TEC.
The Diocese has consistently disagreed with TEC’s embrace of what most members of the global Anglican Communion believe to be a radical fringe scriptural interpretation that makes following Christ’s teachings optional for salvation.
• Number of parishes that disassociated from TEC and align with the Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Lawrence: 49
• This number represents 80 percent of the 30,000 members in the Diocese
• Number of parishes that disassociated from TEC and are presently in lawsuit with the Diocese of SC: 35 (This includes St. Andrews, Mount Pleasant who had previously left the Diocese but joined in the lawsuit)
• Why did the Diocese of SSouth Carolina disassociate from the Episcopal Church? The break-away churches think that the Episcopal Church has moved away from traditional mainline Christian beliefs including the authority of Scripture and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. They say this is not simply over the ordination of gay bishops or issues concerning human sexuality. “Had that been the case, the Diocese would have left nine years ago when the first gay bishop was ordained,” a release from the Diocese of South Carolina states. “Ultimately, our departure was the result of TEC’s attempt to remove our Bishop. That action made it clear there was no longer a place for the Diocese of S.C. within TEC.”