First of all, the California game is not over yet. We’ll see what the decision ultimately is. However, that will be California, and different states will come up with different decisions based on their laws. What I would say mostly as a lawyer is that if the accession to the Dennis Canon is not filed in the public records with each parish actually assenting to the Dennis Canon trust, it may not be enforceable. We’ve had these discussions before. I know that it certain Dioceses they have checked on these issues and have done something about them. If these issues aren’t addressed, then “if it ain’t on the deed, you may not succeed,” to borrow stylistically from another lawyer who has roots in Louisiana (“if the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.”)
You also need to know that stare decisis is not an absolute principle. If it was, most of the civil rights decisions of the U.S. Supremes from the 1950′s and 60′s would not have happened.
I would not accuse people who paid for parish property trying to buck a trust to which they did not assent or may be revocable “stealing.” I would call them litigants. You would call them thieves in order to demonize them. Further, you are absolutely incorrect about the parishes not offering to pay for them. As I understand it, Bishop Lee cut off all negotiations toward such an amicable settlement in favor of the lawsuits.
Does the Episcopal Church have the right to do what it is doing in pressing this litigation? Sure. Is that the best approach to conflict resolution? Nope. I still believe trying to negotiate and resolve these issues is preferable to litigation. That used to happen, but it isn’t anymore, because the Episcopal Church’s strategy at this point is to convince people not to leave the Episcopal Church on the basis that if they leave the Episcopal Church they will lose their buildings. Quite an evangelism strategy for retaining membership in the church. Scare folks into staying by playing on their emotional attachments to buildings they were baptized, confirmed, married and had their relations buried in. A church built on fear.
And Jesus wept.