Questions and answers about current legal issues involving The Episcopal Church in South Carolina
(Updated March 15, 2013)
Q: Has a federal court case been filed against Mark Lawrence?
A: Yes. A lawsuit was filed on March 5 in U.S. District Court in Charleston by the Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, who is recognized by The Episcopal Church as Bishop of the diocese. Because of a legal action in state court, the diocese is currently using the name “The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.”
Q: Has The Episcopal Church (TEC) filed a new lawsuit in federal court?
A: No. The Episcopal Church has not filed any legal action regarding the disassociating members of the local diocese or any parishes here.
Q: Is the federal lawsuit attempting to take ownership over Diocese or parish property?
A: No. The suit asks the federal court to stop Mark Lawrence from falsely stating that
he is bishop of the diocese. We hope the court will find that the diocese is part of The Episcopal Church, and that Bishop Lawrence, having left the Church, cannot continue to claim to be bishop of the diocese or use its name and marks. The federal complaint does not address the ownership of either diocesan property or local parish properties.
Q: Why is this suit being filed in federal court, when there is already a case in South Carolina Circuit Court?
A: Bishop vonRosenberg’s complaint was filed in federal court because it relies on federal trademark law (the Lanham Act) and First Amendment principles, which are properly addressed by the federal courts. The complaint filed in S.C. Circuit Court in January by Mark Lawrence’s group, and some parishes associated with him, deals primarily with
property issues. It also seeks control over the diocese’s name and marks.
Q: Did Bishop vonRosenberg or TEC agree not to “put up a fight” about the temporary injunction that Circuit Court Judge Diane Goodstein issued, which currently prevents them from using the diocese’s name and marks?
A: No. It is important to note that Bishop vonRosenberg, TEC and all officials of the diocese are making every effort to comply with the temporary order, while working to prepare a legal response to the issues raised in the state lawsuit. That is the reason the diocese is using the working name,“The Episcopal Church in South Carolina.” Rather than respond to the injunction in a separate hearing, what TEC agreed to do – with the consent of all parties – was to let the order remain in place temporarily, while they prepare the overall response to the lawsuit. The deadline for that response is April 4.
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