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U.S. Supreme Court asked to Clarify Provisions of 1977 Charter

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  • Melanie Jula Sakoda
    Submitted by Melanie Sakoda http://www.orthodoxnews.com/ U.S. Supreme Court asked to Clarify Provisions of 1977 Charter - Orthodox Christian Laity May 30, 2007
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3 4:04 PM
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      Submitted by Melanie Sakoda

      http://www.orthodoxnews.com/

      U.S. Supreme Court asked to Clarify Provisions of 1977 Charter -
      Orthodox Christian Laity

      May 30, 2007

      ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN LAITY
      On Behalf of the Plaintiffs
      May 30, 2007

      PRESS RELEASE
      For More Information Contact:
      George D. Karcazes - 312-422-1801

      U.S. Supreme Court asked to Clarify Provisions of 1977 Charter of the
      Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

      On Monday, May 14, 2007 the Plaintiffs in the case of Pappas et al v.
      Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America filed in the Supreme Court of
      the United States their Petition for a Writ of Certiorari asking the
      Supreme Court to take jurisdiction of the case. It must be noted
      that the Plaintiff's initiated this Declaratory Judgment action,
      which seeks neither monetary nor other "damages" from the Archdiocese
      only after all attempts at an amicable resolution were rebuffed. The
      relief sought, in the form of a "declaration" of the meaning of the
      amendment provision of the 1977 Charter and compliance with New York
      law regarding the revision of the governing document of a religious
      corporation voluntarily incorporated under New York law is relief
      sought not for the benefit of the Plaintiffs alone, but for the
      entire Church as well as other religious bodies in America.

      The issues presented in this case are of far reaching importance not
      only to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and its
      communicants and other Orthodox jurisdictions, but also to all other
      churches and religious institutions in the United States. By holding
      that Courts have no jurisdiction to determine if a Church has
      complied with its secular contractual obligations or has acted in a
      manner contrary to the requirements of the statute applicable to it
      and under which it was voluntarily incorporated, the New York Courts
      have placed such Churches above and beyond the law. The effect of
      such a holding not only creates chaos in the life and governance of
      such Churches, but it also denies to their members their civil rights
      to have secular matters of contract and corporate law concerning
      their Churches decided according to neutral principles of law. The
      case is of particular importance to Orthodox Christians since the New
      York Courts, clearly contrary to the United States Constitution, made
      pronouncements and findings involving canonical and doctrinal matters
      by erroneously declaring that all Orthodox Churches are subject to
      the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and
      by speculating about the powers and authority of the Ecumenical
      Patriarch.

      As stated in the Petition, the issues which the Plaintiffs have
      asked the Courts to rule on are secular matters concerning (1)
      compliance by the Archdiocese with applicable New York Statutory law
      which provides the procedure for amendment of a corporate
      constitution ( THE 1977 Charter) of a hierarchical Church and (2)
      the interpretation of Article XXIV of the 1977 Charter which embodies
      the contract between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Archdiocese
      that any revision of the 1977 Charter requires the agreement of both
      parties and does not permit either of them to unilaterally make such
      revisions.

      To date none of the New York Courts which have rendered a decision in
      the legal action against the Archdiocese has ruled on the substantive
      issues involved in the case. Those decisions have merely held that
      under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the
      Courts have no jurisdiction to decide the case. Notwithstanding the
      erroneous and unsubstantiated conclusions of the New York Courts, the
      issues in the case do not involve any religious, canonical or
      doctrinal matter and can be decided on the basis of "neutral
      principles" of contract and corporate law as set forth by the United
      States Supreme Court in the case of Jones v. Wolf . Accordingly,
      there is no constitutional impediment which prevents the courts
      from ruling on the issues presented by the legal action.

      The U.S. Supreme Court has not taken a case concerning internal
      church disputes since it decided Jones v. Wolf in 1979. During the
      28 year period since Jones v. Wolf was decided, a great split has
      developed among many state courts in applying the principles set
      forth in that case. In fact the confusion which has resulted has been
      described as chaotic. Although it is extremely difficult to get the
      Supreme Court to exercise its jurisdiction since it only decides a
      small number of cases each year, the Plaintiffs believe that their
      case is exactly the type of situation in which the Supreme Court
      decides that it will hear a case - i.e. to clarify the law by ending
      the confusion in the interpretation of the applicable law by
      different Courts so that the law will be the same in all the states.
      The situation in this case is even more compelling since in the past,
      the New York Court of Appeals has followed Jones v. Wolf although it
      failed to do so in this instance.

      The striking anomaly of the decisions of the New York Courts in this
      case is that they have in effect held that since the Archdiocese is a
      hierarchical Church, the Courts have no jurisdiction to interpret the
      New York Statute (RCL 15) under which the Archdiocese was voluntarily
      incorporated and which is specifically applicable to hierarchical
      Churches.

      Orthodox Christian Laity supports the legal action undertaken
      February 3, 2004 by a broad-based group of Greek Orthodox faithful
      and it supports this Petition. OCL was neither a plaintiff in the
      original action nor is it a petitioner in this matter.
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