Religious Liberty Watch:
When Property Rights Trump Polity Rights

Religious Liberty — By on March 9, 2004 at 2:38 pm

In his letter to the Corinthian church, the Apostle Paul wrote, ‘



  • David

    Woah!
    This is so wrong, I don’t know where to begin.
    For years, the courts have worked to erode property rights and our first ammendment right to ‘peaceably assemble’.
    Now they are going to tell us that belonging to an organization is a property right?!
    I think my head is about to explode….

  • David

    Woah!
    This is so wrong, I don’t know where to begin.
    For years, the courts have worked to erode property rights and our first ammendment right to ‘peaceably assemble’.
    Now they are going to tell us that belonging to an organization is a property right?!
    I think my head is about to explode….

  • Phillip

    Where is the ACLU arguing Separation of Church and State?

  • Phillip

    Where is the ACLU arguing Separation of Church and State?

  • http://www.linoge.net/blog/ Linoge

    Good grief…. what happened to the whole “separation of church and state” nonsense? So the chuch is not allowed to present prayers and the Ten Commandments within the government, but the government is allowed to muck with the affairs of churches? Need I say “No!”?
    And what happened to the “freedom of assembly” clause. Not only does that give us the right to assemble as we see fit, but it also gives us the right to _not_ assemble with certain individuals, as we see fit.
    And since when did belonging to an “accepted” sect of a religion matter? What about all of those subsets of Wicca and the like that are getting governmental identification everywhere you look? Are _they_, too, “owned” by their members?
    *sigh* That big earthquake that will eventually separate California from the rest of the US really needs to hit soon…

  • http://www.linoge.net/blog/ Linoge

    Good grief…. what happened to the whole “separation of church and state” nonsense? So the chuch is not allowed to present prayers and the Ten Commandments within the government, but the government is allowed to muck with the affairs of churches? Need I say “No!”?
    And what happened to the “freedom of assembly” clause. Not only does that give us the right to assemble as we see fit, but it also gives us the right to _not_ assemble with certain individuals, as we see fit.
    And since when did belonging to an “accepted” sect of a religion matter? What about all of those subsets of Wicca and the like that are getting governmental identification everywhere you look? Are _they_, too, “owned” by their members?
    *sigh* That big earthquake that will eventually separate California from the rest of the US really needs to hit soon…

  • http://www.vigilancematters.com/ Marty

    Is it just me, or is this a microcosm of what can happen to churches who choose to split from the Episcopal church, and must sue to try and save the property built loved and maintained by its members?
    And these things are settled by JUDGES???
    Sorry, but THAT’s a first amendment violation if there ever was one…

  • http://www.vigilancematters.com Marty

    Is it just me, or is this a microcosm of what can happen to churches who choose to split from the Episcopal church, and must sue to try and save the property built loved and maintained by its members?
    And these things are settled by JUDGES???
    Sorry, but THAT’s a first amendment violation if there ever was one…

  • http://kristinhoppe.com/ Kristin

    Not to mention a 1 Corinthians 6 violation.
    I know, call me crazy, expecting Christians to live by what the bible says.

  • http://kristinhoppe.com Kristin

    Not to mention a 1 Corinthians 6 violation.
    I know, call me crazy, expecting Christians to live by what the bible says.

  • http://www.benjaminalan.com/ Benjamin Alan

    I’m only 3/4 of the way through my property course, but I don’t think being a member of a church actually gives you any property rights. A church is an independent charitable organization which receives donations from its members to continue operating.
    Holding that the church members have a partial ownership in the church could open up the church to all sorts of crazy problems. Can a church member sell or assign his property right to another? When a member leaves, would the church be required to pay him back for his partial ownership of the church? I think the court is getting confused with the difference between being a “member” and being a “Partner” or “Shareholder.” The latter have actual ownership in the company. A member does not.

  • http://www.benjaminalan.com Benjamin Alan

    I’m only 3/4 of the way through my property course, but I don’t think being a member of a church actually gives you any property rights. A church is an independent charitable organization which receives donations from its members to continue operating.
    Holding that the church members have a partial ownership in the church could open up the church to all sorts of crazy problems. Can a church member sell or assign his property right to another? When a member leaves, would the church be required to pay him back for his partial ownership of the church? I think the court is getting confused with the difference between being a “member” and being a “Partner” or “Shareholder.” The latter have actual ownership in the company. A member does not.

  • Anthony

    Gee, I contribute to the American Red Cross, an independent charitable organization. I also volunteer as an instructor for same. Does that mean I own a part of it?

  • Anthony

    Gee, I contribute to the American Red Cross, an independent charitable organization. I also volunteer as an instructor for same. Does that mean I own a part of it?

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  • tgirsch

    Phillip:
    Where is the ACLU arguing Separation of Church and State?
    Good question. Have they been asked to get involved?
    This case is pretty far under the radar (I don’t see anyone other than the Pacific Justice Institute reporting it one way or another — and this is normally the type of thing Fox News jumps on), so it’s hard to judge until more information becomes available.
    If the facts are exactly as Joe and PJI present them, then it would seem to me that this is a bad ruling. But with only one side of the story being told here, cooler heads need to prevail for now.

  • tgirsch

    Phillip:
    Where is the ACLU arguing Separation of Church and State?
    Good question. Have they been asked to get involved?
    This case is pretty far under the radar (I don’t see anyone other than the Pacific Justice Institute reporting it one way or another — and this is normally the type of thing Fox News jumps on), so it’s hard to judge until more information becomes available.
    If the facts are exactly as Joe and PJI present them, then it would seem to me that this is a bad ruling. But with only one side of the story being told here, cooler heads need to prevail for now.

  • mikew

    There is an excellent article entitled “Church Property Disputes: A Constitutional Perspective” by Kenneth North, Duquesne University, posted by the Canon Law Institute, which chronicles the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on church property disputes such as this – going back to the 1871 Watson rule. It may be found at http://www.canonlaw.org.
    Although there is precedent for the court’s involvement in church affairs, the issue of individual member’s property rights in (I assume) a continuing non-profit religious organization is interesting. Also, there are areas of individual property rights in churches subject to state laws, such as statutes involving the succession and assessment of “pew rights”, etc. (I believe) still on the books in several states.

  • mikew

    There is an excellent article entitled “Church Property Disputes: A Constitutional Perspective” by Kenneth North, Duquesne University, posted by the Canon Law Institute, which chronicles the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on church property disputes such as this – going back to the 1871 Watson rule. It may be found at http://www.canonlaw.org.
    Although there is precedent for the court’s involvement in church affairs, the issue of individual member’s property rights in (I assume) a continuing non-profit religious organization is interesting. Also, there are areas of individual property rights in churches subject to state laws, such as statutes involving the succession and assessment of “pew rights”, etc. (I believe) still on the books in several states.

  • http://www.pacificjustice.org/ JMG

    In response to an earlier question, the Pacific Justice Institute made an unfortunate error in the letter. The case is being appealed to the NINTH Circuit FEDERAL court of Appeals. Thank all of you for your interest.

  • http://www.pacificjustice.org JMG

    In response to an earlier question, the Pacific Justice Institute made an unfortunate error in the letter. The case is being appealed to the NINTH Circuit FEDERAL court of Appeals. Thank all of you for your interest.

  • http://www.pacificjustice.org/ PJI

    The case is a state court case. It was filed in Superior court in Fresno and is being appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. There seems to be some confusion about this case, partly due to unclear media coverage and announcements. But it is state court.

  • http://www.pacificjustice.org PJI

    The case is a state court case. It was filed in Superior court in Fresno and is being appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. There seems to be some confusion about this case, partly due to unclear media coverage and announcements. But it is state court.

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