ST. LUKE’S ANGLICAN CHURCH’S PETITION TO UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI DENIED TODAY: LEGAL BATTLE FOR JUSTICE ENDED
LA CRESCENTA, Calif. – March 1, 2010 – St. Luke’s Anglican Church has learned today that the Supreme Court of the United States has denied its petition for writ of certiorari filed in December of last year.
St. Luke’s asked the Court to decide whether California courts violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by conferring on The Episcopal Church and its Diocese in Los Angeles a special power – not available to nonreligious persons or nondenominational churches – to seize St. Luke’s property and take over its corporation based on its religious affiliation.
Since its founding, the members of St. Luke’s have remained steadfast and loyal in their commitment to the Holy Scripture and to the historic teachings of Christianity as affirmed throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion. The increasing expression of non-orthodox belief and practices found in The Episcopal Church demonstrated to the members of St. Luke’s that The Episcopal Church has chosen a path that no longer reflects these cherished principles. Therefore in February of 2006, after prayerful and well-considered deliberation, over ninety percent of St. Luke’s members voted to disaffiliate from The Episcopal Church and realign themselves with another province of the worldwide Anglican Communion. St. Luke’s felt it had a legal right to make this choice as it had owned its property “free of any trust” for decades, and is a California nonprofit religious corporation governed by a board of directors and its members.
Shortly after disaffiliation, St. Luke’s was sued for control of the church property and assets by both the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles and by the national Episcopal Church. They claimed that by an internal rule of The Episcopal Church, a “unilateral trust” had been made on all churches in the denomination and therefore, while members might be free to disaffiliate, the church property belonged to the denomination. In the series of legal decisions that followed, the California courts ultimately agreed with this assertion and on October 12, 2009, forced the congregation of St. Luke’s out of its property in La Crescenta where it had faithfully worshiped for over 80 years.
St. Luke’s had hoped that the United States Supreme Court would hear its case not just for the sake of its own members, but also for the sake of other congregations across the country, regardless of denomination or faith, who own their property. St. Luke’s legal representatives maintain that under longstanding law, no one can unilaterally impose a trust over someone else’s property without their permission. But California courts have now ruled that certain denominations – those that claim to be a “superior religious body or general church” – can unilaterally impose a trust on the property of spiritually affiliated but separately incorporated local churches, resulting in the local church forfeiting its property if it ever chooses to leave the denomination. These rulings in California conflict with similar rulings in other states and St. Luke’s lawyers intended to argue that California violated St. Luke’s first amendment rights by giving preferences to certain kinds of churches that claim to be hierarchical; rights that other churches and non-religious associations are not entitled.
The congregation of St. Luke’s - now re-incorporated under the name “St. Luke’s Anglican” and continuing vibrant and faithful worship in rented facilities – is grateful that its long legal battle is now over and offers its thanks to all who have prayed for its continued success. St. Luke’s remains supportive of sister congregations here in California and in other parts of the country who are facing similar trials and prays that God’s will be done.