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Ruling Favors Breakaway Congregations

Ruling Favors Breakaway Congregations in Va. Suit – washingtonpost.com

Eleven Virginia congregations whose members voted to leave the Episcopal Church in late 2006 and early 2007 have remained in the church buildings since, arguing that a Civil War-era state law allows them to keep the property worth tens of millions of dollars.

The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia argued that the state law is unconstitutional, that the government should not be involved in deciding when a religious organization has legally “divided” and that internal church laws and practices should govern such a spat.

But Circuit Court Judge Randy Bellows ruled today in favor of the breakaway congregations, saying the diocese could have used routine civil documents to protect its property, but didn’t. The law has been around for 141 years and “did not parachute into this dispute from a clear blue sky,” Bellows wrote….