York CathedralLast week, a NSW Supreme Court decision was handed down regarding the fate of a parcel of land on which a church building stands.  The findings of Lindsay J in this case serve as a timely reminder of the obligations and duties of trustees who hold property in their names, in this context, on behalf of a church body.

Facts of the Case

While some of facts of the case were contentious, the findings from Lindsay J paint a straightforward picture of the events that had occurred:

  • In 1978, five men, being members of a small congregation of Christians who worshipped under the name “The Apostolic Christian Church Nazarene-Sydney” (Church), purchased a property in Arncliffe, NSW (Land) for the purposes of enabling the congregation to worship and pray there.
  • While the Land was purchased in their five individual names, there was no doubt that the Land was purchased and used only for the advancement of religion.  The Judge was satisfied that the five individuals intended to hold the Land as trustees for the Church.
    Continue Reading Trustee Duties v Self-Interest – A Battle over Church Property

York CathedralIn late 2013, the Supreme Court of Queensland refused an application instigated by a parishioner of a Methodist Church in Queensland, who sought orders to allow him to freely pass into the Church to distribute flyers he had made.  The facts of the case are straight forward:

What happened?

  • Mr Gallagher, who had been a member of the congregation of a Methodist Church in Queensland, became increasingly upset at the theology proffered by his church.
  • Mr Gallagher created “warning pamphlets” and during Sunday service, placed them in the pigeon holes (located inside the Church) of some of the members.
  • One of the respondents (who included the pastor and members of the Board of that Church) asked Mr Gallagher to leave, but he refused and only left after the police were called.
  • The following day, the respondents sent a letter to Mr Gallagher stating that the Board was unable to allow him to enter onto the Church property without express permission.
  • Mr Gallagher complied with their letter but felt that the respondents’ actions were unjust and contrary to his entitlement to freedom of speech. He commenced action against the Church in the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Continue Reading Freedom of Speech on the Doorstep of the Church?

Mouth GagSummary – The Commonwealth Labor Government intends to ban gag clauses in Commonwealth contracts with Not-For-Profits.            

On 19 September 2012 the Commonwealth Labor Government announced its intention to introduce legislation to ban so-called “gag” clauses in Commonwealth contracts with the Not-For-Profit sector.

The introduction of legislation to expressly ban the use of gag clauses which are considered to censor public debate is a move which will no doubt be welcomed by the Not-For-Profit sector as a critical part of the current reform process and the strengthening of the independence of the Not-For-Profit sector in Australia.Continue Reading Government Moves to Ban Gag Clauses in Not-For-Profit Sector

York CathedralSummary – The Supreme Court has handed down a judgment in the case involving the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle and two priests who had been the subject of a recommendation from a Church Board that they be defrocked.  The judgment deals with important issues relating to the employment status of priests, the legal status of churches and circumstances in which a court will interfere in the internal workings of a church.

On 27 April 2012 Justice Sackar handed down judgment in the case of Sturt and Anor  v  the Right Reverend Dr Brian Farran, Bishop of Newcastle and Ors.  In these proceedings, Fr Sturt and Fr Lawrence (the priests) sought orders against the Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, the members of the Professional Standards Board (PSB), the members of the Professional Standards Committee of the Diocese of Newcastle (the PSC) and the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia.Continue Reading The Status of Priests and Churches – Supreme Court Judgement

Summary – The Supreme Court has passed judgment again on the dispute over church trust property in the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

There has been a long running dispute between the Macedonian Orthodox Diocese of Australia and New Zealand (Church) and the Macedonian Orthodox Community Church St Petka Incorporated (Association).

At the core of the dispute is a contest for control of the affairs of the Parish of St Petka between the Church hierarchy represented by the Bishop and his appointed Priest on the one hand and, on the other, the Association which claims to represent the parishioners.  An essential feature of the dispute is the tension between adherence to church law and adherence to the constitution of the Association.Continue Reading Church Trust Property in the Macedonian Orthodox Church