Wednesday, April 29, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Raymond J. Dague 315-422-2052http://www.DagueLaw.com
Not content with taking the church buildings and bank accounts from Church of the Good Shepherd by court order, the Central New York Episcopal Diocese got the court to say that Christ Episcopal Church in Binghamton can take money which was left to Good Shepherd in the will of one of its deceased members. A decision issued last Friday denied Good Shepherd a trial on the issue, and awarded the money to the nearby Episcopal Church. The judge said that the deceased parishioner of Good Shepherd was a Episcopalian, and provided for his money to go the other Episcopal Church if Good Shepherd no longer existed. These facts, the judge claimed, could be used to infer the man’s intention to transfer his gift to the other Episcopal Church immediately upon Good Shepherd’s disaffiliation from the Episcopal diocese.
Judge Ferris Lebous of the state supreme court in Binghamton, New York is same judge who issued the first ruling which gave the buildings to the Episcopal Diocese in January of this year.
Syracuse attorney Raymond Dague defending Good Shepherd disagreed with the decision. “The will says that the parish gets the money in the trust unless the parish “ceases to exist,” said Dague. “This court decision morphs the words ‘ceases to exist’ into ‘leaves the Episcopal Church.’ With the greed of the numerous lawsuits she has filed against congregations everywhere in the country including this one, and her dramatic lurch away from classic Christian beliefs over the last few years, it is no wonder that the Episcopal Church is losing attendance faster than any other church in America. The way it is going, the Episcopal Church will be rich with dead people’s money, but with nobody left in the pews.”
The court also noted that there is “an obvious lack of income flowing into Good Shepherd after April 2008” when the Episcopal diocese sued, and the judge finds this “disturbing.” The court will allow the Diocese to conduct depositions to see if there was a diversion of income from the parish. That people would not donate to a church which is being sued by its diocese is not surprising. Apparently the Diocese will now take sworn statements from Good Shepherd officials to determine why individual parishioners decided not to give their money to a church in danger of having all of its assets seized by the Episcopal Church.
The church’s lawyer Raymond Dague flatly denied that the parish diverted any of its money. “Not a dime of parish money was improperly spent,” Dague said. “The way the Episcopal Church is treating this local church, it is a wonder that anyone gives money to anything that has the title ‘Episcopal’ on it in the Central New York Diocese. If the Diocese wants to inquire into why these people did not give to the Episcopal Church, they should get quite an earful.”
The court’s decision also mentions items belonging to Good Shepherd that were taken from the premises after the lawsuit was filed, although the court notes that removed items were later returned. The parishioners did not intentionally take items that belonged to the church. The congregation moved out of the old building quickly, only days after the adverse judgment. In the quick exit from the church building there was confusion on the part of people who were raised at Good Shepherd regarding what belonged to individual members and what belonged to the church. Any items mistakenly removed have been returned.
There was no immediate word from the parish on whether the court decision would be appealed. Bishop Gladstone “Skip” Adams of Syracuse sued the parish last spring after that parish disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church. Fr. Kennedy, the priest at the parish which was sued, is a commentator on the well known Anglican website Stand Firm
. Good Shepherd recently moved to a new location in Binghamton just over a mile from its old building, and has been increasing its Sunday attendance since its move to the new location.