The Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina have asked a federal judge to expand a false advertising lawsuit to include parishes in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina as defendants.
The original lawsuit (.pdf), known as vonRosenberg v. Lawrence, was filed in 2013 by the Right Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, then bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, against the Right Rev. Mark Lawrence, the bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, on claims of false advertising and trademark infringement. Last year, the Right Rev. Gladstone “Skip” Adams III, current bishop of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, and The Episcopal Church were added as plaintiffs.
The motions (.pdf) filed last week ask the court to expand the defendants to include the Diocese of South Carolina, which broke away from The Episcopal Church in 2012, and all of the parishes that associate with it.
The Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina are also asking the court to issue an injunction against the Diocese of South Carolina to prevent the breakaway group from using words and symbols that they say may cause confusion about which group they are affiliated with. This is the second time The Episcopal Church in South Carolina has asked for such an injunction; the first request occurred just after the initial filing in 2013.
In another motion (.pdf), The Episcopal Church in South Carolina is also asking the federal court to step in and enforce the state court’s decision in an August ruling that the Diocese of South Carolina must return church property to The Episcopal Church.
The motion asks the court to take over the designation of trustees for church property, removing members “who cannot demonstrate to this court’s satisfaction that they are capable of and willing to carry out their fiduciary obligations” to The Episcopal Church and replacing them.
“We are asking the federal court to help bring a final resolution to the legal proceedings that all sides have endured since 2013,” Thomas Tisdale Jr., chancellor of The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, said in a statement. “Our goal is to hasten the day when we can begin working together to heal our divisions and assist the people and parishes of our diocese through the transitions ahead.”
The Diocese of South Carolina has filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to rehear the state case. A decision is expected this spring.
The federal case had been on hold since October because of a stay issued by Judge Richard Gergel to allow all parties to enter mediation. That is ongoing, but Gergel lifted the stay last month and issued a scheduling order for the case to go to trial in September.