NUMBER OF SIGNERS

As leaders in South Carolina’s religious community, we prize its long and rich history of religious freedom. The ability to gather freely and worship with those of common faith is what brought many of our ancestors to this land. The freedom to do so is a presumption on which all our ministries rest today. Whether we are colonial Anglican parishes, Huguenots, Baptists, non-denominational or any other religious tradition, we share this in common. It is what has made the rich tapestry of religious diversity in South Carolina possible. But we perceive that freedom is now in jeopardy.

The narrowly divided decision on August 2nd by the South Carolina Supreme Court would transfer nearly $500 million in church property from the congregations of the Diocese of South Carolina who created it for their ministry, to an unincorporated New York association who contributed nothing to its development. We believe this decision undermines multiple Constitutional protections we are compelled to speak out to defend.

The 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees to all people the “free exercise of religion.” That amendment also asserts that the government, including its courts, “shall make no establishment of religion.” This means that it cannot favor one religious group over another nor elevate non-religious over religious bodies by its treatment.

The current ruling by this Court has violated these Constitutional principles of free exercise, first by creating a standard for property trusts that favors some organizations over others. The majority opinion suggests that an unincorporated association, merely by changing its national bylaws, can claim the property of its members. It would be as if the U.S. Chamber of Commerce passed a rule for itself claiming an interest in the property of every local Chamber, with no explicit local agreement to that transfer of ownership. There is no statute or common law in South Carolina that would support the validity of such a claim, but that is what this ruling creates, solely on the basis of disputed religious claims. It asserts that there are different rules for religious versus non-religious entities in this state. That is a disturbing precedent. As Justice Kittredge observed in his dissent, “The message is clear for churches in South Carolina that are affiliated in any manner with a national organization and have never lifted a finger to transfer control or ownership of their property—if you think your property ownership is secure, think again.” We agree!

It must also be observed that with the freedom of association comes the freedom to disassociate. Some of us represent religious traditions whose historical existence is predicated on this freedom. We believe strongly that churches freely associated with each other can also freely choose to disassociate. And the exercise of that freedom should not come at the price of the tools for ministry established by local sacrifice, often over the course of generations. When the vast majority of those so choosing (80% in this case) do so in full accord with the existing state law and Supreme Court precedent, we reasonably expect the courts to respect that decision.

There are also essential issues of fairness (due process) at stake in this case that add to our concern. A principle of the 14th Amendment’s protections is that no one in government should make decisions on matters in which they have a vested interest. In this ruling, the deciding vote was cast by a Justice with membership in a parish, diocese and national denomination, all of which stand to gain tremendously from the outcome.

Nationally recognized legal scholars have examined this case and reached a unanimous conclusion. The deciding vote in this ruling was cast by a Justice whose impartiality might be reasonably questioned and whose bias in favor of the Episcopal Church and its local diocese is clear. This Justice came to this case with prior personal knowledge of the disputed facts and a participation in them that violates the due process rights of the Diocese of South Carolina. There is also a failure to protect those rights as mandated by the South Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct.

All South Carolinians, religious or not, have the reasonable expectation that the justice we receive in our courts will be fair and impartial. Even the appearance of bias is cause for concern. When that bias is brought to bear on the basis of religious belief, we all find such an outcome especially disturbing. If one religious group can be treated in this fashion today, there is good cause for concern that others may fare no better in the future.

It is the responsibility of the courts of this State to fairly uphold its laws, equally for all its citizens. In doing so, the Constitutional principles that have assured religious freedom in this country for over 200 years must not be neglected. The court has before it a request for rehearing in this case. It is an opportunity to address these Constitutional concerns and assure that South Carolina continues its tradition of fostering religious freedom and assuring that all its citizens, whatever their religious tradition, may do so with confidence in that freedom under the law. It is our prayerful and confident expectation that this Court will do all that is necessary, under the Constitution, to protect these freedoms.

This Statement is affirmed by:

  1. Reverend Greg Kronz of St. Luke’s Church – Hilton Head
  2. Bishop Thomas W. Wallace II of Journey Church – Myrtle Beach
  3. Steven Winburn of Faith Holiness Church – Hartsville
  4. Dr. Glen Robinson of The Apostles’ Tent International – Greenville
  5. Pastor Stephen Williamson of Gethsemane Baptist Church – Lexington
  6. Pastor Steven Aldridge of Lighthouse Baptist Church – Pageland
  7. Retired Reverend Kenneth Tucker of Trinity Church – Abbeville
  8. Pastor Joey Deese of Oakdale Baptist Church – Rock Hill
  9. Dr. Carl J. Broggi, President of Search The Scriptures Radio & Pastor of Community Bible Church – Beaufort
  10. Cherie Cahoon, Ministry Leader – Community Bible Church
  11. Brad Lindsey, Ministry Leader Advisor to Nehemiah Network – Lexington
  12. Pastor James Howard of Renewing Minds Ministries – Greenville
  13. Daniel Conley, State Coordinator for Character Under Construction – Lexington
  14. Jimmy Braddock of Impact Family Ministries – Camden
  15. Shane McDaniel of Broadacres Baptist Church – Cayce
  16. Dr. Andy W. Wells of Galilee Baptist Church – Pageland
  17. Rev. Mike O’Dell of York Baptist Association – Rock Hill
  18. Michael Parnell of Call To Life Family Worship Center – Lamar
  19. Reverend Darien Gabriel of Grace Christian Fellowship – Charleston
  20. Pastor Brian Keith of Faith Assembly of God – Rock Hill
  21. Pastor Jerry Gardner of Faith Baptist Church – Bishopville
  22. Dr. Gary Hollingsworth, Executive Director of SC Baptist Convention – Columbia
  23. Dr. Todd Black, Pastor of Turning Point Free Will Baptist Church – Spartanburg
  24. Reverend Steven Smith of Episcopal Church of the Atonement – Walterboro
  25. Rev Rob Pierce of Latta Baptist Church – Latta
  26. Pastor Mike Westmoreland of Sumter Baptist Temple – Sumter
  27. Pastor Bill Monroe of Florence Baptist Temple – Florence
  28. Pastor Jay Rebsamen of West End Baptist Church – Rock Hill
  29. Pastor Don Johnson of Harbour Lake Baptist Church – Charleston
  30. Reverend Chris Smith of National Day of Prayer – Columbia
  31. Reverend Ronnie Blackwell of Northside Baptist Church – Laurens
  32. Pastor Robert Jarvis of Welcome Baptist Church – Union
  33. Reverend Timothy Squire of Rantowles Baptist Church – Charleston
  34. Adrian Despres, former Gamecocks Chaplain – Columbia
  35. Pastor Keith Hinson of Woodward Baptist Church – Rock Hill
  36. Pastor Gary Hensley of Covenant Baptist Church – Spartanburg
  37. Pastor Kevin Rogerson of Joel Baptist Church – Lexington
  38. Dr. Tom Tucker of Sisk Memorial Baptist – Fort Mill
  39. Rev. Mark R. Krieger of Mt. Bethel Baptist – Belton
  40. Rev. Mike Wallace Sr. of York Baptist Association – Rock Hill
  41. Pastor Bryan Alverson of Solid Rock Christian Church – Boiling Springs
  42. Pastor Tim Huckaby of Burnsview Baptist Church – Woodruff
  43. Pastor Mark Kannarney of Liberty First Baptist Church – Liberty
  44. Pastor Skip Owens of Calvary Baptist Church – Charleston
  45. Pastor Mike Craig of Lakeside Baptist Church – Myrtle Beach
  46. Joe Long, Ministry Leader – Columbia
  47. Pastor Brandon Corley of Varnville First Baptist – Varnville
  48. Pastor Tommy Kelly of Varnville First Baptist – Varnville
  49. Pastor Roy Magnuson of Kingdom Baptist Church – Taylors
  50. Chad Connelly, President of Faith Wins and former Chair of SCGOP – Newberry
  51. Pastor John Hoppe III of Calvary Chapel – Lexington
  52. Pastor Bryan Plyler of Ther River Church – Camden
  53. Pastor Micah Hucks of Bread of Life Tabernacle – Horry
  54. Pastor George Atkins Jr. of Hoffmeyer Road Baptist Church – Florence
  55. Pastor Bart Smith of Sanctuary of Life Outreach Center – Rock Hill
  56. Pastor Brandon Lynch of Sumter Baptist Temple – Sumter
  57. Pastor Bill Rigsby of North Anderson Baptist – Anderson
  58. Pastor Bobby Fields of Oakdale Baptist Church – Rock Hill
  59. Dr. Robert Eubanks of Ridge Baptist Church – Charleston
  60. Pastor Nate Staton of Anothen Church – Rock Hill
  61. Pastor Bradley Seaton of Friendship Freewill Baptist Church
  62. Brian Thompson, Elder
  63. Pastor Donald Childers of Clyde Church of God – Hartsville
  64. Thomas Bowman of Rhema Ministries – Columbia
  65. Jen Thompson, Director of Lighthouse for Life – Columbia
  66. Timothy Bazen of Gloryland Baptist Church – Hartsville
  67. Pastor Anthony Queen of His Church – Rock Hill
  68. Reverend Gary Corcoran of Christ Church – Charleston
  69. Reverend Walter Brigman Jr. of Redemption Church – Charleston
  70. Pastor Mitchell Adkins of Park Ridge Baptist Church – Rock Hill
  71. Pastor Jeremy Rivers of Body of Christ Overcomer Ministries – Columbia
  72. Pastor Tommy Turner of Bible Baptist Church
  73. Pastor Brian Winebrenner of Turning Point Free Will Baptist – Spartanburg
  74. Blake Lindsey, Station Manager at GGR Radio – Lexington
  75. Pastor John Matthews of Cornerstone Fellowship Free Will Baptist – Manning
  76. Brandon Owens of First Free Will Baptist Church – Kingstree
  77. Pastor Wayland Owens of First Free Will Baptist Church – Kingstree
  78. Pastor Michael Pittman of Living Water Community Church – Spartanburg
  79. Pastor Richie Yow of North Cheraw Baptist Church – Cheraw
  80. Pastor Frankie Hunt of Lighthouse Baptist Church – Easley
  81. Pastor Stephen Carr of Deer Park Baptist Church – Charleston
  82. Pastor Bob Woodward, Ministry Leader – Rock Hill
  83. Tonya Shellnutt of Alliance Defending Freedom & Concerned Women for America – Rock Hill
  84. Bob Healy, Lighthouse for Life Research Director – Columbia
  85. Pastor Billy Harmon of New Life Baptist Church – Charleston
  86. Pastor Tim Brittain of North Strand Community Church – Little River
  87. Pastor David Pohto, formerly at First Baptist church – Surfside Beach
  88. Terrence Gallman of My Hope Field Representative – Newberry
  89. K.C. Lombard, Ministry Leader of James Island Christian Church – Charleston
  90. Pastor Sherwood Lee, Moderator of SC Freewill Baptist Church
  91. Josh Kimbrell, Host of “Common Cents” Radio Show – Spartanburg
  92. Pastor Wayne Dickard of Siloam Baptist Church – Easley
  93. Rev. David Snodgrass of First Church of the Nazarene – Camden
  94. Pastor Mike Gonzalez of Columbia World Outreach Church – Columbia
  95. Pastor Johnny Touchet of Mount Mariah Baptist – Greenville
  96. Steven Kirkland, Board Chairman at Palmetto Family Council – Columbia
  97. Reverend Jose Alvarez, Spanish Evangelist at Jose Alvarez Ministries – Anderson
  98. Pastor Clark Carter of Portside Baptist Church – Charleston
  99. Corey Dixon of Put Prayer Back in South Carolina – Hartsville
  100. Rev. R. Marshall Blalock of First Baptist Church and Charleston Baptist Association
  101. Rt. Rev. Alphonza Gadsden of the Diocese of the Southeast and Reformed Episcopal Church – Summerville
  102. Rt. Rev. William J. White of the Diocese of the Southeast and Reformed Episcopal Church – Summerville
  103. Most Rev. Foley Beach, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church in North America
  104. Dr. Bob Jones III – Greenville
  105. Pastor Chris Todd of South Carolina Free Will Baptist Executive Secretary – Turbeville
  106. Pastor Ken Mayfield of Mountain View Baptist Church – Boiling Springs
  107. Darren Truel, Missionary – Batesburg-Leesville
  108. Joshua Stone, Minister at Community Bible Church – Beaufort
  109. Pastor Joey Curado of  Calvary Baptist Church – Salley
  110. Pastor Justin Anderson of New Hope Baptist Church – Pickens
  111. Rev. Canon J. Ronald Moock, Academic Dean of Cummins Theological Seminary and Canon to the Ordinary, Diocese of the SE – Summerville
  112. Gayle Davis, Senior Warden of St. David’s Church – Cheraw
  113. Rev. Alex Mark of First Scots Presbyterian Church – Beaufort
  114. Rev. Andrew R. O’Dell, Senior Associate of St. Philip’s Church – Charleston

MORE INFO

THOUSANDS OF SC CHRISTIANS TO BE DISPLACED DUE TO JUDICIAL BIAS

The situation appears grim for thousands of conservative Anglicans in South Carolina. The South Carolina Supreme Court has ruled against the Bible-believing Diocese of South Carolina, which will result in nearly 23,000 Christians being displaced.

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