Category: Orthodoxy & the US Courts


Notes on an Ethiopian Orthodox court case


Right now, I'm fully immersed in work on my big paper on Orthodoxy and the civil courts. I just thought I'd offer some notes on a case I just read, Kidist Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahedo Church, Inc. v. Kidist Mariam Ethiopian Orthodox Tawahedo Church, Inc., a 1995 Georgia Court of...

Yet Another Priest is Taken to Court


In the middle of the twentieth century, Fr. Boris Burden (+1973) played important roles in American Orthodoxy.  It was he and Fr. Michael Gelsinger who rallied behind the attempt in the late 20s and early 30s to unite Orthodoxy and they were the key players, together with George E. Phillies...

Metropolia beats Moscow in court


In the Supreme Court cases Kedroff v. St. Nicholas Cathedral and its successor Kreshik v. St. Nicholas Cathedral, the highest court in the country ruled against the Metropolia and in favor of the Moscow Patriarchate in a dispute over church property. But Moscow didn't win all the time. The 1962...

Five court cases


Sorry for the long delay between articles... I've been terribly busy, I'm afraid. Here are notes on five of the many, many Orthodox court cases I've been researching lately. These cases fit broadly into the category of "deference," where the courts tend to defer to the higher church authorities (bishop,...

Hierarchical, Congregational, and the problems of the “parish”


In 1993, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts rendered its decision in (brace yourself) Primate and Bishops' Synod of Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia v. Russian Orthodox Church of Holy Resurrection, Inc. We'll just call it Primate from here on out. This case involved a Massachusetts ROCOR parish that left ROCOR...

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...

Orthodoxy & the Courts: ecclesiastical questions are unavoidable


Until the early 1980s, some OCA parishes in the Diocese of Eastern Pennsylvania used the Old Calendar. In 1982, then-Bishop Herman Swaiko of Philadelphia ordered all of his parishes to switch to the New Calendar. Predictably, this wasn't universally well-received. The majority of St. Basil Orthodox Church in Simpson, PA...

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...

Hanna v. Malick: the Russy-Antacky schism in the Michigan Supreme Court


Prior to Bishop Raphael Hawaweeny's death in 1915, pretty much all the Syrian (Antiochian) Orthodox in America recognized his authority. This included St. George Syrian Orthodox Church of Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was incorporated in 1910. The parish was under St. Raphael, and all seemed to be well. But in...

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,...