It May Be Illegal to Read This in South Carolina

imageThis is the warning fellow blogger Steve Skardon put on his blog, South Carolina Episcopalians:

Warning !!!

SC Episcopalians has been served with an Order by SC Judge Diane Goodstein to stop refering to the officially-recognized Diocese of South Carolina as "The Diocese of South Carolina" or "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina."

The Judge’s Order also applies to individuals who might use these terms. Please do not read any of these articles out loud, or you could be in violation of SC law and possibly subject to arrest.

Here is the story at Episcopal News Services, the official news service of the Episcopal Church.

Here is some background: Presiding Bishop issues Pastoral Letter to the Episcopal Dxxxxxx of Sxxxx Cxxxxxxx (not to be confused with ex-bishop Lawrence’s secessionist Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina).

I might understand this ridiculous ruling after reading why it was filed. Well would, I? Nah! To apply it to a blog reporting the news, is someone somewhere in this state nuts?

So does this ruling apply to newspapers, also? Does it apply to all blogs or just blogs in South Carolina? And how might that work? What if a blog is hosted in another state – or the cloud, as almost all blogs are these days? What if someone in South Carolina drives to Georgia with a laptop and posts from Starbucks in downtown Savannah? In returning home might he be arrested for transporting inappropriate words across a state line? Does this ruling apply to Time Warner’s ISP service? Must they block these words flowing into the home of someone in the state?

clip_image001Maybe it is time for the Streisand Effect to kick in. The Streisand Effect is named after the attempt by Barbra to prevent her house from appearing on the internet, ” Indeed! Wikipedia offers this definition:

The Streisand effect is a phenomenon on the Internet where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized. Examples are attempts to censor a photograph, a file, or even a whole website, especially by means of cease-and-desist letters.

I have more sympathy for Barbra Streisand than I do for Mark Lawrence and the forty or so partial congregations following him out of the Episcopal Church. They can leave. They are just not entitled to the buildings, bank accounts and the name of the church. In the end, if past court cases are predictive, the breakaway congregations will end up losing the buildings, money that is left and the names.

And here is a useful FAQ.

One thought on “It May Be Illegal to Read This in South Carolina”

  1. After reading through the various web postings, I can see that this could be a most intriguing situation, and there may well be object lessons to be learnt for other church jurisdictions. I suspect it would not arise where a church formed part of the legal establishment, such as the Anglican Communion in Britain. I read that it appears to have arisen in South Carolina because the diocese became an incorporated body under state law in 1973 and presumably the judge is constrained by the contents of the incorporating document and the persons named in that document. This would be a fairly common situation under several state, national and ecclesiastical jurisdictions. In NZ for example most RC (arch)diocesan property, including parish churches would be registered under NZ law as the property of the (Arch)bishop of (diocese), “a corporation sole”. I don’t know that the name of the (Arch)bishop at any particular time would appear on any secular registered state document or not, or whether if any kind of conflict arose whether the matter would be settled by some process based on the discernible facts of the case, and how Catholic Canon Law might influence any such decision.

    The ENS site has some fascinating opposing views and comments on the matter, which would be entertaining if they were not so sad. One comment suggests that if the suit was successfully defended, then the remnant church would then be obliged to maintain several old buildings, which are registered historic places, but would be unable to fund their maintenance with their depleted congregations. The separation of church and state would seem to have its advantages and disadvantage, the latter particularly when the church depends on the state for proper secular governance of its property.

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