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Unpublished Paper
Church Schisms, Church Property, and Civil Authority
ExpressO (2009)
  • Calvin R Massey

This article addresses a major problem that the United States Supreme Court created in Jones v. Wolf and iatenand has permitted to exist thereafter. The Court allowed civil courts to use any one of three different methods to adjudicate church property disputes: 1) Neutral and secular principles of property and trust law, 2) Deference to the internal governance rules of churches, and 3) State statutes that address resolution of these disputes in a manner that avoids doctrinal decisions. The problem that has resulted is that use of the second and third methods clashes at times with both the establishment and free exercise clauses. The article reveals the problem and proposes a solution, modeled after a Virginia statute that is presently at issue in Virginia litigation concerning ownership of Episcopal church property. Some of the flaws of the third approach are revealed through examination of a California statute at issue in pending litigation concerning Episcopal church property in California. This article is particularly pertinent, given the incipient fracture of the Episcopal Church, USA, and the litigation that will erupt nationwide in the wake of that schism.

  • church property disputes,
  • religion clauses
Publication Date
March 16, 2009
Citation Information
Calvin R Massey. "Church Schisms, Church Property, and Civil Authority" ExpressO (2009)
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