The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the case of Presbytery of Ohio Valley and the Synod of Lincoln Trails of the Presbyterian Church (USA) vs. Olivet Presbyterian Church of Evansville, Inc.
The Indiana Supreme Court’s decision in the case established Indiana as a “neutral principles of law” state.
“Because the neutral-principles-of-law approach permits greater fairness, consistency and equality of application to all church property disputes regardless of the structure of the denominational church organization, we adopt the neutral-principles-of-law approach for settling property disputes between religious organizations in Indiana,” the decision read.
Earlier this year, the Presbytery of Ohio Valley, along with the Synod of Lincoln Trails, asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
It gave three reasons for the U.S. Supreme Court to grant the writ of certiorari:
- “The Indiana Supreme Court’s decision violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments, creates confusion and disagreement over Jones v. Wolf and other decisions of this court, and should not stand.
- “The Indiana Supreme Court’s decision conflicts with decisions of other state supreme courts applying Jones and addressing the PCUSA property trust clause or similar provisions of other church denominations.
- “This case is important and reflects recurring inconsistency, unpredictability and burdens imposed by unconstitutional applications of the neutral principles of law approach for resolving church property disputes.”
“This court should grant this petition to ensure that the intentions of religious organizations who changed their constitutions like the PCUSA and of congregations like Olivet who pledged to abide by such constitutions are given effect. Moreover, this court should ensure that the burdens of following a neutral principles approach are no greater for hierarchical, national denominations than they are for more localized, congregational churches. No particular form of church governance or polity should be preferred by the state,” read the petition.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court denied the presbytery and synod’s writ of certiorari, the Indiana Supreme Court decision is final.
Along with recognizing the Indiana as a “neutral principles of law” state, the Indiana Supreme Court remanded the case back to a trial court, because “Genuine issues of disputed fact, resulting from varying inferences possible from the designated evidence, must be resolved at trial rather than on summary judgment.”
Those issues include the presbytery’s claim to an implied trust, since “reasonable inferences are possible and thus produce a genuine issue of material fact regarding the requisite unequivocal intent of Olivet to create a trust.”
Read more at:
- Ohio Valley Presbytery appeals church property case to U.S. Supreme Court
- Indiana Supreme Court rules no ‘express’ trust in church property case
- Indiana Supreme Court will hear Olivet property battle
- Indiana court rejects PCUSA property claim