[Episcopal News Service] A South Carolina Circuit Court judge Jan. 31 signed a consent order issuing a temporary injunction concerning use of registered diocesan names and marks that are claimed by Bishop Mark Lawrence and other leaders who led some Episcopalians in that state out of the Episcopal Church.
The temporary injunction extends a previous temporary restraining order and will remain in effect until Judge Diane S. Goodstein decides differently or rules on an underlying lawsuit begun by Lawrence against the Episcopal Church. All parties to that suit consented to the temporary injunction. However, any party may request a hearing on having the injunction modified or dissolved. Such a request requires 14 days’ notice.
A temporary injunction is meant to maintain the status quo and prevent damage or change before the legal questions raised in a lawsuit are answered. After the trial on those issues, the court may issue a permanent injunction or cancel the temporary injunction.
Goodstein’s order came a day before a hearing she had scheduled for Feb. 1 to determine if the temporary order should be extended or whether she should impose a temporary injunction.
When she imposed the temporary restraining order on Jan. 23, the judge said only Lawrence and 24 other people associated with him could use the diocesan seal as described in its registration with South Carolina Secretary of State, as well as the names “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina,” “The Diocese of South Carolina” and “The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina.” Those three titles were registered on Nov. 5, 2010, according to the order.
Any other “individual, organization, association or entity” is prevented by both the order and now the injunction from using those marks and seals, Goodstein said.
Goodstein’s order required the group to change its name and remove the Diocese of South Carolina’s shield from its materials. And its first item of business on Jan. 26 was to make that name change official in order to act with what attorney Thomas Tisdale called “an abundance of caution, and with the desire to comply” with the order.
The group formally agreed to use the name “the Episcopal Church in South Carolina” in place of what Tisdale, elected chancellor later in the meeting, said “we believe is our true and lawful name.”
A Jan. 31 notice on the group’s website said that the temporary injunction “is not an unusual development, and it signifies only that these issues remain to be decided at a future time.”
On the other hand, the group that maintains it still is the Diocese of South Carolina said after the temporary injunction was issued that the Episcopal Church had decided “not put up a fight.”
The temporary injunction is related to the suit that was filed in state circuit court Jan. 4. The action, the original plaintiffs said in a press release at the time, was taken “to protect the diocese’s real and personal property and that of its parishes.”
The suit also asked the court to prevent the Episcopal Church from “infringing on the protected marks of the diocese, including its seal and its historical names, and to prevent the church from assuming the diocese’s identity, which was established long before the Episcopal Church’s creation,” according to the press release.
Goodstein’s Jan. 23 order made clear that it applied only to the names and seal, and not the other matters alleged in the suit. More information about the lawsuit is here.
— The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.