Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Court Rules Church Factions Must Share Church Building

In Mullins v. Wicker, (OH App., June 22, 2017), an Ohio appellate court in a 2-1 decision, agreed with a trial court's decision in a case in which two competing factions of the Little Ettie Old Regular Baptist Church in Beaver, Ohio both claimed ownership of the church's property.  The trial court had held that there are two congregations each equally entitled to church property and issued an injunction specifying how the two factions would share use of the church building.  The appeals court majority affirmed.

Judge Harsha dissenting argued that the court should have applied the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine and dismissed the case for want of jurisdiction, even though neither party raised the jurisdictional issue. He argued that the dispute here is essentially over church doctrine.  He added that even if the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine does not apply, the trial court abused its discretion in finding that there are two competing congregations equally entitled to ownership of church property.