[The Living Church] 15 Oct 2008--Justices for the California Supreme Court probed weaknesses in the legal arguments of lawyers from The Episcopal Church, the Diocese of Los Angeles, and the majority of members at a congregation formerly affiliated with the diocese during a one-day hearing on Oct. 8.
In questions to Eric Sohlgren, the lawyer for St. James’ Church, Newport Beach, Associate Justice Carol Corrigan asked about language in St. James’ articles of incorporation which “forever bound” the parish to the constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church. Mr. Sohlgren responded that the documents referred to a “spiritual promise” similar to a marriage contract and were never meant to convey ownership of real estate to the diocese. This prompted additional sharp questioning from several other justices.
The seven-member court also pressed James Shiner and Heather Anderson, the lawyers for the diocese and the national church respectively, as to why the State of California should treat church property disputes differently than others. “Why should we hearken back to a different time when religion had a different place in society?,” Justice Corrigan asked Ms. Anderson. “Why not treat everyone equally?”