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Episcopal Church asks local court to enforce property decision

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The Episcopal Church and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina have asked the 1st Circuit Court of Common Pleas to enforce the state Supreme Court’s August decision and return church properties held by a breakaway group to The Episcopal Church.

The petition (.pdf), filed Monday in Dorchester County, also asks the court to appoint a “special master” to oversee the resolution of the issues.

The S.C. Supreme Court’s August ruling stated that the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina, which broke away from The Episcopal Church in 2012, must return church property to The Episcopal Church. The Diocese of South Carolina has appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expected to decide in the coming weeks whether to hear the case.

The Episcopal Church asked U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel in March to step in and enforce the state court’s decision, but Gergel ruled last month that a better solution for the church would be to take legal possession of the parish property rather than ask the federal court to assist in property management.

He also wrote in his decision that a better place to ask for enforcement of the decision was the Dorchester County Court of Common Pleas, “where these issues have been litigated for over five years.”

Trademark suit filing

In a separate case, The Episcopal Church in South Carolina also filed a complaint (.pdf) with the U.S. District Court in Charleston in the federal trademark infringement and false advertising lawsuit known as vonRosenberg v. Lawrence (.pdf).

The complaint is materially similar to the original lawsuit, asking the federal court to declare that the Diocese of South Carolina has engaged in false advertising and trademark infringement under federal and state law, and to issue an injunction against the breakaway group to prevent them from using words and symbols that The Episcopal Church says may cause confusion about which group a church is affiliated with.

The Episcopal Church in South Carolina was added as a plaintiff in vonRosenberg v. Lawrence last month, and the Diocese of South Carolina and all of the parishes associated with it were added as defendants.

The original lawsuit 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, 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.

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