Updated again Thursday morning
The United States District Court has dismissed the case brought against the Diocese of Connecticut by the “Connecticut Six”. The full ruling can be read as a PDF file, which is available here.
A press release from the Diocese says:
A federal lawsuit filed against Connecticut Episcopal Bishop Andrew D. Smith was dismissed by a judge in a ruling yesterday, August 21.
The civil suit was filed last September by clergy and lay people from six Episcopal parishes (among 176) in Connecticut, against Bishop Smith and others, including the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church USA. The lawsuit accused them of depriving the six plaintiff parishes of their rights, under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and sought to have a state law that provided for corporate organization of the Episcopal Church declared unconstitutional.
The plaintiff parishes included lay members from St. Paul’s, Darien; Bishop Seabury, Groton; Christ Church, Watertown; Trinity, Bristol; Christ & the Epiphany, East Haven; and St. John’s, Bristol, and clergy from five of those parishes. All six had been in dispute with the Bishop and Diocese over Episcopal authority and jurisdiction. The conflict started in late 2003 with theological differences. As an accommodation to those differences, Bishop Smith offered Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight (DEPO) in early 2004 but it was not accepted by any of the six parishes. The suit was filed after the actions of the bishop in July 2005, when he intervened at St. John’s in Bristol, inhibiting the priest and installing a priest-in-charge and an administrator.
In her ruling, U.S. District Judge Janet B. Arterton concluded that the bishop acted under canon law, and that the claims by the plaintiffs lacked an essential element justifying a federal suit. Several other claims filed under Connecticut tort law were also dismissed by the federal judge.
Bishop Andrew D. Smith, who is currently out of the state, was reached late yesterday and notified of the court’s decision. In a statement of response he said:
“I am gratified by the decision of Judge Arterton that it is inappropriate to seek federal intervention in a matter of church life and governance. Non-interference by civil authorities in religious matters is a constitutional foundation of our nation and I trust that those members of the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut who appealed to the courts will recognize the significance of this ruling and will seek to live in communion with their Bishop and this Church.”
There is also an ENS release: Federal judge dismisses Connecticut lawsuit. This contains a lot more detail and adds the information that:
The six congregations also appealed to the Panel of Reference established by the Archbishop of Canterbury in response to a request of the Primates at Dromantine, Northern Ireland, in February 2005. The Archbishop of Canterbury withdrew the reference to the Panel in May 2006 until the civil case was resolved, citing the decision of the Panel not to consider references where civil cases are in process.
The American Anglican Council has issued a “Connecticut Six press release”: Connecticut Six Clarify Status of Civil Litigation. Now also on the CT Six site.
There are also two local newspaper reports: Lawsuit Against Bishop Dismissed and Federal judge dismisses lawsuit over gay Episcopal priest battle.
The Church of England Newspaper has this report by George Conger Connecticut court case against Bishop thrown out.