Maryland and Virginia Eldership of Churches of God v. Church of God At Sharpsburg, Inc, No. 414

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM; BRENNAN
PartiesThe MARYLAND AND VIRGINIA ELDERSHIP OF the CHURCHES OF GOD et al. v. The CHURCH OF GOD AT SHARPSBURG, INC., et al
Decision Date19 January 1970
Docket NumberNo. 414

396 U.S. 367
90 S.Ct. 499
24 L.Ed.2d 582
The MARYLAND AND VIRGINIA ELDERSHIP OF the CHURCHES OF GOD et al.

v.

The CHURCH OF GOD AT SHARPSBURG, INC., et al.

No. 414.
Jan. 19, 1970.

Alfred L. Scanlan, James H. Booser and Charles O. Fisher, for appellants.

Arthur G. Lambert, for appellees.

PER CURIAM.

In resolving a church property dispute between appellants, representing the General Eldership, and appellees, two secessionist congregations, the Maryland Court of Appeals relied upon provisions of state statutory law governing the holding of property by religious corporations,1 upon language in the deeds conveying the properties in question to the local church corporations, upon the terms of the charters of the corporations, and upon provisions in the constitution of the General Eldership pertinent to the ownership and control of church property. 254 Md. 162, 254 A.2d 162 (1969).2 Appellants argue primarily that the statute, as applied, deprived the General Elden-

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ship of property in violation of the First Amendment. Since, however, the Maryland court's resolution of the dispute involved no inquiry into religious doctrine, appellees' motion to dismiss is granted, and the appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question. It is so ordered.

Appeal dismissed.

Mr. Justice BRENNAN, with whom Mr. Justice DOUGLAS and Mr. Justice MARSHALL join, concurring.

I join the per curiam but add these comments. We held in Presbyterian Church in the United States v. Mary Elizabeth Blue Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church, 393 U.S. 440, 449, 89 S.Ct. 601, 606, 21 L.Ed.2d 658 (1969), that 'First Amendment values are plainly jeopardized when church property litigation is made to turn on the resolution by civil courts of controversies over religious doctrine and practice. If civil courts undertake to resolve such controversies in order to adjudicate the property dispute, the hazards are ever present of inhibiting the free development of religious doctrine and of implicating secular interests in matters of purely eccelesiastical concern. * * * (T)he (First) Amendment therefore commands civil courts to decide church property disputes without resolving underlying controversies over religious doctrine.' It follows that a State may adopt any one of various approaches for settling church property disputes so long as it involves no consideration of doctrinal matters, whether the ritual and liturgy of worship or the tenets of faith.

Thus the States may adopt the approach of Watson v. Jones, 13 Wall. 679, 20 L.Ed. 666 (1872), and enforce the property decisions made within a church of congregational polity 'by a majority of its members or by such other local organism as it may ahve instituted for the purpose of ecclesiastical government,' id., at 724 and within a

Page 369

church of hierarchical polity by the highest authority that has ruled on the dispute at issue,1 unless...

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250 practice notes
  • Dorrough v. Estelle, No. 73-1881.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 29 Julio 1974
    ...case 497 F.2d 1014 was dismissed without awaiting "the end of the Term or the expiration of a fixed period of time". 396 U.S. at 366, 90 S. Ct. at 499. And in Van Blaricom v. Forscht, 5 Cir. 1974, 490 F.2d 461, 462 (en banc), this Court removed the appeal from the docket and ordered that if......
  • Thibodeau v. Am. Baptist Churches Of Conn., No. 30260.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 27 Abril 2010
    ...v. Wolf, supra, 443 U.S. at 595, 99 S.Ct. 3020; Maryland & Virginia Eldership of the Churches of God v. Church of God at Sharpsburg, Inc., 396 U.S. 367, 90 S.Ct. 499, 24 L.Ed.2d 582 (1970). Similarly, contractual matters, including employment disputes, may be resolved by the secular judicia......
  • King v. Tatum (Ex parte Tatum), 1131368.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 10 Julio 2015
    ...the First Amendment in much the same manner as civil determination of religious doctrine.’ Md. & Va. Churches v. Sharpsburg Church, 396 U.S. 367, 369 (1970) (Brennan, J., concurring)."Milivojevich, 426 U.S. at 708–09 (emphasis added). "Milivojevich, read in its entirety, holds that civil co......
  • Brinlee v. Crisp, No. 77-1689
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • 1 Noviembre 1979
    ...need not await the end of the Term or the expiration of a fixed period of time, but should take place at this time." 396 U.S. at 366, 90 S.Ct. at 499. See also Allen v. Georgia, supra, 166 U.S. at 142, 17 S.Ct. It is true that the action by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals taken withi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
250 cases
  • Dorrough v. Estelle, No. 73-1881.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • 29 Julio 1974
    ...case 497 F.2d 1014 was dismissed without awaiting "the end of the Term or the expiration of a fixed period of time". 396 U.S. at 366, 90 S. Ct. at 499. And in Van Blaricom v. Forscht, 5 Cir. 1974, 490 F.2d 461, 462 (en banc), this Court removed the appeal from the docket and ordered that if......
  • Thibodeau v. Am. Baptist Churches Of Conn., No. 30260.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • 27 Abril 2010
    ...v. Wolf, supra, 443 U.S. at 595, 99 S.Ct. 3020; Maryland & Virginia Eldership of the Churches of God v. Church of God at Sharpsburg, Inc., 396 U.S. 367, 90 S.Ct. 499, 24 L.Ed.2d 582 (1970). Similarly, contractual matters, including employment disputes, may be resolved by the secular judicia......
  • King v. Tatum (Ex parte Tatum), 1131368.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 10 Julio 2015
    ...the First Amendment in much the same manner as civil determination of religious doctrine.’ Md. & Va. Churches v. Sharpsburg Church, 396 U.S. 367, 369 (1970) (Brennan, J., concurring)."Milivojevich, 426 U.S. at 708–09 (emphasis added). "Milivojevich, read in its entirety, holds that civil co......
  • Brinlee v. Crisp, No. 77-1689
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • 1 Noviembre 1979
    ...need not await the end of the Term or the expiration of a fixed period of time, but should take place at this time." 396 U.S. at 366, 90 S.Ct. at 499. See also Allen v. Georgia, supra, 166 U.S. at 142, 17 S.Ct. It is true that the action by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals taken withi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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