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In Re Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America v. the Rev. Norman David

New York Supreme and/or Appellate Courts Appellate Division, First Department


May 1, 2012

IN RE METROPOLITAN NEW YORK SYNOD OF THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH OF AMERICA,
PETITIONER-RESPONDENT,
v.
THE REV. NORMAN DAVID, ET AL.,
OBJECTORS-APPELLANTS.

Matter of Matter of Metropolitan N.Y. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Am. v David

Published by New York State Law Reporting Bureau pursuant to Judiciary Law § 431.

This opinion is uncorrected and subject to revision before publication in the Official Reports.

Decided on May 1, 2012

Mazzarelli, J.P., Andrias, Renwick, Richter, JJ.

Order, Supreme Court, New York County (Paul G. Feinman, J.), entered on or about October 25, 2011, which granted the petition to transfer certain real property pursuant to Religious Corporations Law § 12 and Not-For-Profit Corporation Law § 511, unanimously affirmed, without costs.

The dismissal of the prior action in Supreme Court, Kings County, challenging the validity of the application of synodic administration to the church in question bars the objections to the instant petition, pursuant to the doctrine of judicata (see Gramatan Home Invs. Corp. v Lopez, 46 NY2d 481, 485 [1979]). Moreover, petitioner's determination that the congregation had become so diminished and scattered that it could no longer function is a non-justiciable religious determination (see Episcopal Diocese of Rochester v Harnish, 11 NY3d 340 [2008]).

Were we to consider their argument on its merits, we would find that objectors failed to demonstrate the unconstitutionality of Religious Corporations Law § 17-c ("Property of Lutheran congregations") beyond a reasonable doubt (see Matter of Schultz Mgt. v Board of Stds. & Appeals of City of N.Y., 103 AD2d 687, 689 [1984], affd 64 NY2d 1057 [1985]). The statute's reference to a congregation's inability to fulfill its purpose, which permits the synod having jurisdiction over it to take control of the congregation's property (see Religious corporations Law § 17-c[2][a][iii]), is not impermissibly vague. The constitution of the congregation in question amplifies the purpose, tying it to the conduct of worship services and the provision of pastoral care. These areas are both governed by petitioner in its discretion; it is for petitioner to determine whether the order of service is "evangelical Lutheran" and to appoint pastors to an approved list. Thus, the congregation is not subject to any rules other than those to which it subscribed.

THIS CONSTITUTES THE DECISION AND ORDER OF THE SUPREME COURT, APPELLATE DIVISION, FIRST DEPARTMENT.

ENTERED: MAY 1, 2012

CLERK

20120501

© 1992-2012 VersusLaw Inc.



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