Saturday, April 4, 2020


There seems to be a lot of confusion among some people as to what the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017 was. What did the SCSC say in its ruling? The best thing to do now to clear up this confusion is to go back and look at the words of the decision itself. They are plain English. Any one reading on the Sixth Grade level can read and interpret the meaning of the words perfectly. Therefore, once again, here is the last page of the SCSC decision giving the three agreements (click on image for enlargement):

For the whole document, click on here .

We see here there are three decisions and they are conveniently numbered (1), (2), (3). Let's take them one at a time.

(1) with regard to the eight church organizations which did not accede to the Dennis Canon, Chief Justice Beatty, Justice Kittredge, and I [Toal] would hold that title remains in the eight plaintiff church organizations.

What does this say? It says that a majority (3 of the 5) of the justices agreed that eight plaintiffs in the case are owners of their local properties. They are owners because they did not accede to the Dennis Canon.

(Two of the eight plaintiffs were of the same parish, St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant. Thus, there are seven parishes in all that the court recognized as owners of their properties.)

(2) with regard to the twenty-eight church organizations which acceded to the Dennis Canon, a majority consisting of Chief Justice Beatty, Justice Hearn, and Acting Justice Pleicones would hold that a trust in favor of the national church is imposed on the property and therefore, title is in the national church.

What does this say? It says a majority (3 of the 5) of the justices agreed that 28 parishes are property of the Episcopal Church. This is so because they acceded to the Dennis Canon.

(3) with regard to Camp St. Christopher, Chief Justice Beatty, Justice Hearn, and Acting Justice Pleicones would hold title is in the trustee corporation for the benefit of the associated diocese, whereas Justice Kittredge and I would hold that the trustee corporation holds title for the disassociated diocese.

What does this say? It says a majority (3 of the 5) of the justices agreed that Camp St. Christopher is property of the corporation of trustees in the Episcopal diocese.

See? These three majority decisions are not hard to understand at all. They are not unclear. They are in fact as precise and clear as possible. Seven parishes get their independence. Twenty-eight parishes are property of the Episcopal Church. The Camp is property of the Episcopal diocesan corporate trustees. This is simple to read and to understand.

The ONLY thing that matters in a supreme court decision is the majority opinion. Nothing else matters after the decision is rendered. 

The fact that each justice wrote a separate opinion: Irrelevant. Justices often write their own explanations. The fact that the justices may have differed in how they reached their conclusions: Irrelevant. Only the conclusion itself matters. So, how the justices reached what they reached is beside the point. Supreme court decisions stand only on the majority rulings. The fact that this was a split decision; Irrelevant. The vast majority of supreme court decisions are split.

The losing side petitioned for a rehearing. Denied. They asked SCOTUS for cert. Denied. This means the Aug. 2 decision is the law of the land. It cannot be changed or appealed. 

The self-styled Anglicans are the losing side. So, why are they refusing to accept the decision and move on? As I see it, their last ditch ploy is somehow to get the circuit court judge to declare the SC decision as indecision and to rule himself on the property issue. This would give them a glimmer of hope of holding on to the properties in question. They know they have nothing left. Thus, they are using tactics of confusion and obfuscation to cloud over the decision in an attempt to render it unclear and indecisive and therefore impossible to implement. This is their only hope to keep the decision from being put into effect. When it is implemented, they lose possession of 29 parishes and the Camp.

The SCSC denied the Episcopal Church lawyers' petitions for writ of mandamus and writ of prohibition. Does not this mean the SCSC is siding with the Anglicans? No. All it means is that the SCSC is leaving the matter to the circuit court judge. They sent him a Remittitur in November of 2017. It is his job to implement the SCSC decisions. If they had wanted the lower court to retry part or all of the case, they would have issued a Remand. They did not. They issued a Remittitur. This means it is the judge's job to carry out the majority decisions in the SCSC opinion.

Can the case be reopened and retried? My understanding is that the case is closed. The court decision, the denial of rehearing, the Remittitur, and the denial of cert mean that the lawsuit the secessionists brought against the Episcopal Church on January 4, 2013, is finished. The breakaways won 6 parishes. The Episcopal Church kept 29 parishes and the Camp.

Why has not Judge Edgar Dickson implemented the SCSC decision? That one we would have to ask of the judge. In fact, he has recognized the existence of the three orders on page 77 of the decision. In the second of the four hearings, he implemented the first, to recognize that seven parishes own their own property. No one knows why he has not implemented numbers two and three. The Church lawyers have repeatedly urged him to do so.

Simply put, we do not know why the circuit court has not implemented the last two orders of the SCSC decision in the nearly two and a half years since it received the Remittitur.

Back to the original point. The Anglicans are promoting the assertion that the SCSC decision is too unclear to be implemented. So, I say to everyone, read the actual words of the three rulings on the last page of the decision. They are perfectly clear to me and I think they are perfectly clear to everyone and that is the problem. The losers can read these three orders as well as anyone. They are desperate to find some how, some way, to hold on to the 29 parishes and the Camp. The pertinent question is why Judge Dickson has allowed them to get away with this for 26 months and counting.

In fact, the game is over. The breakaways lost. It is just a matter of time before the lower court does its job and returns the properties to the Episcopal Church. No amount of spin, no amount of confusion and obfuscation will change the ultimate outcome of this. The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled.


The plague spreads. The night darkens. Sickness and death surround us.  

The statistics are grim and frightening and no where in the world is this more true than in our own country. The U.S. has more cases of COVID-19 than any nation by far, three times as many as the point of origin, China, which has three times as many people as the U.S. The rate of the spread in the U.S. is alarming. In the last 48 hours, the death rate in the world was 24% (11,823 deaths) while in the U.S. it was 45% (2,293). At this rate, in the U.S., the number of dead will double about every four days. The death toll now in the U.S. is 7,406.

Figures from individual states are also alarming. In the last two days, SC has jumped 31% in cases and 31% in deaths. This would be a doubling about every three days. In AL, there were 37% more cases and 36% more deaths in the last two days. Again, this would be a doubling about every three days.

If these trends go on as is for the next few weeks, the outcomes will be catastrophic for our states and for our country.

A large part of our problem is the vacuum of leadership in Washington. In the worst national crisis of the past 75 years, the president is missing in action. In fact, one could argue he has made it worse by several crucial mistakes:  ignoring the coming pandemic for two months, failure to exert national control of policies, and failure to exert national control over supplies and distribution. As it is, every individual state and local government is on its own bidding against each other for the inadequate store of supplies. The latest small example of Trump's incapacity to direct is his announcement yesterday that he would not be following the CDC guideline on wearing a face mask in public.

Yet, there are heroes arising all around to lead the people in this hour of crisis. The hero of the day yesterday was Captain Crozier, the captain of the aircraft carrier, USS Theodore Roosevelt. A few days ago, he sent a letter to his superiors, and to the press, asking for help for the hundred or so men on board with the virus and the other 4,000 men and women probably exposed to the virus. He was summarily fired by the acting secretary of the navy for not following established procedures (strict chain of command). This is a classic example of institution over people. Watch this video to see the heroic sendoff the entire crew gave the good captain. They knew who was on their side.

In small ways too, people are stepping up to meet the crisis descending on us. Millions of Americans are now out of work, and out of income. Food pantries are in demand. My little town has a food bank which is coming under increasing strain. At my local church, the Daughters of the King keep a free food pantry in the church parking lot:

(Just before I took this picture yesterday, someone had deposited a dozen loaves of bread from Publix.)

The most touching thing about this little pantry is that as word spread around town of its existence, anonymous people, not connected to the church, began secretly depositing non-perishable foods. The Daughters still manage the box but have a lot of help from invisible hands in stocking it. Even so, the food disappears quickly.

It is only a couple of blocks from a public housing project. I am certain that within a couple of hours of this picture, every item here was gone. Usually can be found there: canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, beef jerky, bread, boxes of pasta, and cereal. This little gesture can mean a lot to people who have no money to buy food.

I think it is imperative that we find creative ways of taking care of each other in this dark hour. We are up to it if we only put our hearts and minds to it. Let's not kid ourselves, we are in a national, indeed worldwide, crisis that is on its way to becoming a catastrophe unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. We will get through it, and when it is over, we want to be able to say we behaved as the Christians we claimed to be.

Bear in mind, we are here for the living of this hour. Peace.