Presbyterian Church v. Hull Memorial Presbyterian Church
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Time Period
1/27/1969
Description
In 1967, two churches in Savannah, Georgia withdrew from the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the "southern" Presbyterian denomination that formed before the Civil War, because of their dissatisfaction with several issues, including the denomination's decision to ordain women and its anti-Vietnam War advocacy. The denomination and the local churches quickly began arguing over who owned the church buildings, which led to lawsuits that eventually reached the Supreme Court.

The legal standard at the time was that denominations that substantially changed their doctrinal standards could lose their title to property when challenged by orthodox local churches. However, the Supreme Court in 1969 ruled that secular judges engaging in doctrinal disputes was a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Courts could only determine disputes over church property when they are restricted to "neutral principles."

The court removed a popular legal tool used by conservative dissidents in Protestant denominations, making it more difficult to secede from denominations unless they were willing to lose their buildings.
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Presbyterian Church v Hull Church case syllabus- US Government document
Web Source(s)
http://openscholarship.wustl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2341&context=law_lawreview
Louis Sirico provides a useful overview of the case on pages 28-31.
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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