Tuesday, November 12, 2019


1:00 p.m.     Word has just arrived that the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina filed a petition yesterday in the United States Court, Charleston, asking the court to enforce its September 19, 2019 injunction against the schismatic group that pretended to be, and is still apparently pretending to be, the historic diocese. The Sept. 19 order made it very clear that the Episcopal diocese is the historic and legal Diocese of South Carolina and that the breakaway group came into existence at the schism in October of 2012. Find the diocesan press release here .

4:00 p.m.     On September 19, 2019, federal Judge Richard Gergel issued a ruling in the case of vonRosenberg v. Lawrence. He declared that the Episcopal diocese was the true historic Diocese of South Carolina, that the breakaway group split off from it in October of 2012 becoming a new organization, and that the breakaway organization could not claim to be the historic diocese. He included a permanent injunction banning the breakaway group from using the names and emblems of the historic diocese.

Yesterday's petition complains that the breakaway organization has only superficially complied with the injunction and remains substantially in violation of it. In the paper, the Episcopal diocese and the Episcopal Church ask the federal court to enforce the terms of the September 19 ruling. 

The petition is forty-seven pages long. Basically it divides the non-compliance into two sections. The first concerns use of the Internet to claim to be the historic diocese. In twenty-three pages, the petitioners list in detail hundreds of examples in which the breakaway side is still violating the permanent injunction. For instance:  claiming their "diocese" was founded in 1785 (under the law, it was founded in 2012); claiming Mark Lawrence as the XIV bishop (under the law, he is their first); claiming their next convention will be the 229th (under the law it will be the eighth); listing the conventions and Jubilate Deo as their own before 2012; claiming Camp St. Christopher; and redirecting the historic diocese's website domains.

The second part asks the court to direct the breakaways to choose a name other than "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina" since it is confusingly similar to the historic diocese's name and does not satisfy the "safe distance rule," that is, sufficient distance to protect the plaintiff's trademark. The plaintiffs ask the court to order the breakaways to stop using the name Anglican Diocese of South Carolina and to choose another distinctly dissimilar one.

In conclusion, the petition says:

"the Court should enforce its Injunction by taking appropriate action to compel Defendants to comply with the Injunction, including but not limited to discontinuing the use of the infringing materials and the making of the false advertisements and representations described herein; discontinuing the use of the Historic Diocese's website domains and any confusingly similar domain names; discontinuing use of the confusingly similar name, "Anglican Diocese of South Carolina"; selecting a new name under the distance rule that is so far removed from any characteristic of the Historic Diocese so as to put the public on notice that the two are not related; and providing any further relief the Court deems just."

Yesterday's petition refers to actions of the defendants' "diocese." There are other examples where parts of that group are still using illegal and/or misleading terms on the Internet. Trinity Episcopal Church, on Edisto, claims on its website to be "Trinity Episcopal Church." The September 19 order held that persons in the breakaway group could not claim to be the Episcopal Church. On his website, on Nov. 10, Kendall Harmon, an officer of the breakaway group, made a posting on his blog entitled "Prayers for the Diocese of South Carolina This Day." The court order of Sept. 19 forbade the breakaways from referring to themselves as the "Diocese of South Carolina."

Not being a lawyer, I am left wondering why yesterday's petition was necessary and what its purpose could be. On Sept. 19, the federal court issued a permanent injunction. The court ruled very clearly. Why does it need to rule again? What would it do now that it did not do before? Would not the next move be for the Church side to ask for a contempt of court citation against the party in violation of the injunction?

Besides, while it is well and good that the Church should pursue enforcement of the court orders in their favor, the bigger concern now is the repossession of the properties and other assets the courts have ruled to belong to the Episcopal Church and its diocese. This is what is really important now and what loyal Episcopalians are awaiting. Should not the Church lawyers be focusing on getting the properties back rather than going, again, to court to get a reiteration of something they have already received, a permanent injunction? Of course, everyone on the Church side hopes Judge Dickson will do something along this line when he holds the hearing on November 26. He is the one in charge of returning the 29 parishes and the Camp to the Church as per the SCSC decision. That still leaves the diocesan properties and other assets that should be restored to the Church diocese.