High court won't hear church's case

LA CRESCENTA — The breakaway Anglican congregation that was forced to move out of the historic St. Luke’s church on Foothill Boulevard hit a legal wall Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case.

The California Supreme Court last year upheld a Los Angeles County Superior Court ruling in 2007 that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles had the right to restore the St. Luke’s church under its authority after the Anglican congregation severed ties several years earlier.

The Anglican congregation, which was forced to vacate the property months later, petitioned the Supreme Court in December, seeking an opinion on whether the state court decision violated the First Amendment.

With the high court declining to review the matter, the St. Luke’s Anglican Church would now shift its focus off the protracted legal battle and onto securing more permanent worship facilities, said the Rev. Robert Holman.

“We’re functioning as a church, just without the property,” he said. “The church, in the end, is the people. This is regroup time.”

The congregation has been renting space from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Glendale, and recently signed a lease for an office on Foothill Boulevard, he said.

“We lost the property, and we’re moving on,” Holman said.

The Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles on Monday released a statement affirming its property rights on all parish assets. Breakaway congregations have argued that, after spending decades using and maintain their facilities, they are the owners. But the courts have so far ruled that the properties are essentially held in trust by a parish under the wider church.

A similar effort by the breakaway St. James Anglican Church in Newport Beach failed last year, and the diocese is awaiting court decisions for bringing other parish properties in Long Beach and North Hollywood under its direct control.

In the statement from the diocese, Bishop J. Jon Bruno said he was “hopeful that it will be possible for Christian reconciliation and healing to occur in these contexts, and I look forward to an end to the costly litigation that has spanned more than five-and-a-half years.”

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