LETTER TO THIS EDITOR,
19 OCTOBER 2019
Judging from the emails I have received recently, the letter below is a widely-held sentiment among Episcopalians in lower South Carolina. It has been twenty-six months since the South Carolina Supreme Court recognized the 29 parishes as property of the Episcopal Church, yet the properties are still in the hands of non-Episcopal clergy and officers. Just one month ago today, the federal court recognized the Episcopal Church diocese as the legal and legitimate historic diocese. The breakaway authorities complied with the federal court order immediately. So, the secessionists complied with one court decision and not the other. This leaves many people in SC frustrated and disappointed and ready to take more direct action to repossess the 29 parishes that by law belong to the Episcopal Church.
Here is the best expression I have received recently of this sentiment:
I have followed your insightful and fair-minded blog about the Episcopal schism ever since the South Carolina Supreme Court decision came down. I am a life-long Episcopalian, as has been my family for generations.
I awoke last night with a thought that may not be a new one, but seemed to me to explain what is happening. There is a military maxim that power is with whomever holds the ground, regardless of the legalities. At this stage the Episcopal Church has recovered the right to be the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina and the breakaway diocese controls the 29 physical buildings that make up most of that diocese. This is essentially the deal that the Episcopal Church proposed to the breakaways, which they rejected. And this, I think, is now what they see as a "mediated" resolution to the situation. They want a do-over.
The breakaways gave up title to the Diocese of South Carolina almost instantly, which is not in the pattern of their delay and obfuscate and appeal strategy. They simply gave it up, albeit while launching what they must know is an appeal unlikely to succeed.
They have a Circuit Court Judge in their corner, indeed in their pockets it seems. Judge Dickson appears to be too timid to act or simply favors them. And with that vacuum of power to enforce the Supreme Court decision, they intend to occupy the property indefinitely, law be damned.
It seems to me we have come to a time for more direct confrontation with Judge Dickson---in a form that the bizarrely silent Post and Courier would find it hard to ignore. I would be willing to join a group of fellow fed-ups to go wherever Judge Dickson is sitting and make a public demonstration with signs, etc. Signs like SHAME!!! And alert the media, and explain ourselves (while also demanding to know why the media are ignoring this important story.) The issues are meaty ones. The conflict of interest in the SCSC's unwillingness to issue a writ of mandamus, for instance. This is now becoming as much a direct challenge to the law as were businesses which refused to seat African Americans at their lunch counters, despite the law. There were Episcopalians who demonstrated to shame law enforcement then, and I think there are some now---I among them---who will be willing to do it again. I feel we are being ignored and steamrolled and, to quote the great Peter Finch in the movie Network, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore." Judge Dickson and the South Carolina Supreme Court must learn that pressure doesn't just come from the rich bigots who are financing this defiance of law.
Sorry, but this has gotten me riled!!
Alex S. Jones,
A picket line sounds good to this old student of the French Revolution. People nowadays have constitutional rights of free speech and free assembly. Thanks to Alex Jones, we ought to be thinking of ways to press the circuit court to do its duty.
Putting together all that has happened and all that is happening, one does have to wonder if there is a collusion or a conspiracy in South Carolina to keep the 29 parish properties away from the Episcopal Church, a coalition of powerful conservative forces in the state, the Charleston Post and Courier, some politicians, and certain state court judges. How else can one explain the 26-month (and counting) failure to implement the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court that is now the final law of the land?
What do you think? Put your feelings and ideas into an email and send to me at address above. If appropriate, I will post with or without name as you choose.