Friday, August 24, 2007

Reversionary Clause Enforced Through Finding That Church De Facto Dissolved

In Central Coast Baptist Association v. First Baptist Church of Los Lomas, (Ct. App. Cal., Aug. 23, 2007), a California Court of Appeals resolved a church property dispute, enforcing a reversionary clause in First Baptist Church's constitution. the constitution provided that in either of two situations, the assets of the church would go to Central Coast Baptist Association. The court held that it lacked jurisdiction to determine whether the church had "ceased to function as a Southern Baptist Church", since this would require "the court to decide issues involving religious doctrine, polity, and practice, an undertaking forbidden by the First Amendment." However, "the court did have jurisdiction to inquire into the alternate basis stated in the reversionary clause, namely whether there had been a 'dissolution or
winding up of the organization.'" A determination that the church had de facto dissolved does not involve religious issues.