The Dionisije Conundrum and why deference doesn’t work

I’m assuming, in this short article, that you’ve read about Serbian Diocese v. Milivojevich. But for those who haven’t: the Serbian Holy Assembly deposed Bishop Dionisije Milivojevich, and Illinois courts basically overruled the deposition on the grounds that the Holy Assembly hadn’t followed its own rules. The US Supreme Court reversed the judgment, holding that…

Neutral Principles of Law in a Bulgarian parish dispute

Today I’ll be discussing Aglikin v. Kovacheff, a 1987 Illinois appellate court case involving a dispute over control of St. Sophia Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Chicago. The key question, in this case, concerns the extent of the diocesan bishop’s authority over the local parish. The bishop had dismissed certain members of the parish board of trustees — did he have…

Ecumenical Patriarch denied appeal of Bishop Dionisije

Well, this is interesting. Lately, I’ve been looking at the Supreme Court case Serbian Diocese v. Milivojevich, which pitted the representatives of the Serbian Church against the incumbent American bishop, Dionisije, who had been defrocked by the Serbian Holy Assembly. The big question, which the Court answered in the negative, was whether civil courts in…

Neutral Principles of Law and the Problems of Deference

So far, we’ve been discussing the role of civil courts in church property disputes in the context of the “deference” approach: that is, the courts will defer to the decisions of the highest church authorities. This was the position taken by the Supreme Court in both of its major Orthodox cases, Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral and Serbian Diocese v. Milivojevich. Not…