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Church Property Dispute

Court rules that local congregation, not national church, has right to property.

Key point. The property of a local church affiliated with a hierarchical denomination may revert to the denomination if the church votes to disaffiliate.
A South Carolina court ruled that a national church retained title to the property of a local congregation that voted to disaffiliate from the parent organization. The local church conceded that the national church was hierarchical in nature, but it asserted that it never became a part of this structure but rather operated as an independent congregation. The court disagreed:
Since its inception as a missions church, the local congregation consistently sent delegates to the national church's annual convention and submitted annual reports to the national church. The national church contributed $5,000 to the local congregation to help construct the church building. The current minister of the local church was appointed by the bishop ...

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Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy.

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  • May 1, 1997