• 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 Florida court ruled that the property of a local church that attempts to secede from an hierarchical denomination remains with the denomination. An African Methodist Episcopal church disaffiliated from the parent denomination, and claimed ownership of its property following the disaffiliation. A state appeals court ruled that in Florida the property of such a church reverts to the denomination following the church’s disaffiliation. It concluded that a prior ruling of the state supreme court “requires that church property remain with the parent church where, as here, the church is hierarchical in structure. Given the trial court’s finding that the AME Church is hierarchical, judgement should have been entered in favor of [the national church] as representative of the original church.” Bethel AME Church v. Domingo, 654 So.2d 233 (Fla. App. 1 Dist. 1995). [ State Court Rulings Regarding Church Property Disputes]
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