Church Takes Property Battle to High Court

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A California congregation is taking its property battle to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Saint James Church pulled out of the Episcopal denomination after the church ordained an openly gay bishop back in 2004.

But its members have been in a legal fight to keep their church building.

The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Episcopal church.

But a legal scholar from Chapman University School of Law says the court's ruling against the Newport Beach church is dangerous.

"The legal issue is settled by the California Supreme Court that in applying neutral principles of law, one of those principles of law is a claim that cannons of a national church create a hierarchical church and therefore we are going to defer to that," Dr. John C. Eastman said. "So you have got this odd hybrid of the ruling and that is what is very dangerous.

"It means that any time a local church has some affiliation with a broader, national organization, the national organization might claim that they are a hierarchical, superior authority and then take the property," Eastman added.

Saint James has now filed a petition to have its case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court and many will be watching to see if the court decides to hear it.

There are dozens of church property cases playing out in lower courts.

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