Local Episcopal officials seek court injunction protecting identity

  • Posted: Friday, March 8, 2013 12:01 a.m.

The leader of the local Episcopal Church authority filed a motion Thursday asking a federal judge to grant a preliminary injunction to stop the Rt. Rev. Mark Lawrence from using the name and marks of the Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina that he has claimed for his own.

The Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg, recognized by The Episcopal Church as bishop of the continuing diocese, said immediate relief is needed to prevent Lawrence from undermining his leadership and from confusing Episcopalians, according to a news release.

The motion is part of a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in district court intended to resolve the identity dispute based on U.S. trademark law. Attorneys for vonRosenberg want District Judge Weston Houck to issue the injunction.

A preliminary injunction, granted before a case is heard, can be difficult to get. Parties have to show they will likely succeed at trial and suffer irreparable harm if it is not granted.

Attorneys for vonRosenberg argued in court filings that he will suffer harm.

Lawrence left The Episcopal Church in October because of disagreements over theology and governance. He and others who disassociated from the church say their diocese predates the national church and is the only real “Diocese of South Carolina.”

When the diocese left, it had 70 congregations with about 29,000 parishioners. But 19 parishes and six worship groups are remaining in the national church, and they elected vonRosenberg bishop at their own convention earlier this year.

Lawrence’s diocese filed a lawsuit in circuit court in January claiming ownership of the diocese’s name, seal and property.

Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein imposed a temporary injunction preventing vonRosenberg’s diocese from using the registered names and seal or mark of the Diocese of South Carolina.

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