[Colorado Springs Gazette] 1 July 2007--Attorneys on both sides of the case disagree about how the California decision dovetails with their legal arguments.
L. Martin Nussbaum, attorney for the Colorado diocese and local parish, says the ruling reinforces a similar one — Diocese of Colorado v. Mote — upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court in 1986. In that case, a breakaway parish tried to keep church property, but the court ruled the property belonged to the diocese. “It (the California decision) is a very scholarly explanation of the law that affirms the freedom of a national church to determine its own rules and governance, and in the case of the Episcopal church, prevents a portion of a local congregation to leave the church and take the property,” Nussbaum says.
But Grace CANA’s attorney, Greg Walta, says Colorado v. Mote isn’t as clear-cut when it comes to the local case. The 1986 ruling turned on the fact that the parish had been a mission church under control of the diocese for 20 years, and its organizing document ceded control over its property to the diocese, he says. In contrast, Walta contends that Grace’s articles of incorporation do not mention the diocese, it has title to the local church property and a long history of acting independently from the diocese and at times in defiance of the diocese.
“Our case is more like Dickey v. Snodgrass, a Colorado case that ruled for a local church,” Walta said. “So the outcome will depend on the facts in the case.”