Federal judge grants majority of Diocese of South Carolina’s motion to enforce injunction

Posted Dec 19, 2019

[Diocese of South Carolina] U.S. District Court Judge Richard M. Gergel issued an order and opinion on Dec. 18, granting in part the motion to enforce the injunction filed by The Diocese of South Carolina, also known as The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, on Nov. 11. In the order, the judge notes: “The Defendants [the disassociated diocese] here clearly violated the terms of the Court’s Order and Injunction.” Furthermore, Gergel’s order denied the motion to stay the injunction filed by the disassociated diocese.

In the petition on Nov. 11, the Diocese of South Carolina requested enforcement of the court’s order and opinion and permanent injunction issued on Sept. 19. The petition cited numerous examples that prove continued violations of the injunction by the disassociated diocese as it “hold(s) itself out to be the Historic Diocese in many respects.”

In yesterday’s ruling, Gergel ruled that “the Court finds that Defendants violated the Court’s Order and Injunction by continuing to use the terms ‘Founded in 1785,’ ‘14th Bishop,’ ‘XIV Bishop,’ and ‘229th Diocesan Convention.’” He further noted that the defendant’s use of these terms and phrases violate the order and injunction by “continuing to claim goodwill as a successor to the Historic Diocese when only TECSC [The Episcopal Church in South Carolina] has that right.” He, therefore, issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the disassociated diocese from using any and all of these terms.

In the 20-page opinion, Gergel also ruled in the favor of The Diocese of South Carolina by acknowledging that by posting convention journals, diocesan constitutions and canons and reports of trustees (of the Diocese of South Carolina) prior to 2012 on their website, the disassociated diocese was also in violation of the injunction.

The order established that all such documents prior to 2012 must be removed from their website. All similar reports and documents after 2012 may be reposted only if all “infringing marks and other terms that misappropriate the goodwill” of the marks of the Diocese of South Carolina are removed in entirety. Additionally, the new injunction noted that diocesan conventions of the disassociated diocese may not be numbered in a way “indicating a history dating to 1785.”

Gergel also ruled that all issues of “Jubilate Deo” (which originated as the newspaper/newsletter of the Diocese of South Carolina in the 1970s) bearing the marks and other terms of the Diocese of South Carolina must be removed from the disassociated diocese’s website as well.

The ruling adds to the injunction established by Gergel’s order on Sept. 19, when he declared that the group that disassociated from The Episcopal Church in 2012 (and all affiliated churches) can no longer use the name “Diocese of South Carolina,” nor use the “diocesan seal” or “Episcopal shield.”

The defendants have appealed this Sept. 19 ruling, but in the Dec. 18 order, Gergel clearly noted: “Defendants may not subvert this Court’s clear Order, as detailed above, by continuing to co-opt the goodwill of the exact marks they are enjoined from using.”