Conn. court: breakaway parish can't keep property

By DAVE COLLINS | September 30, 2011 | 11:45 AM EDT

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled that a 135-year-old local parish that broke away from the Episcopal Church after it consecrated its first openly gay bishop cannot keep its building and land.

Justices ruled Friday against the Bishop Seabury Church in Groton, which like dozens of parishes nationwide split from the national Episcopal Church after the 2003 appointment of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

Similar land disputes involving breakaway Episcopal parishes have been playing out in courts across the country.

The parish's lawyer argued that the Episcopal Church has no right to the property and the land deed is in the parish's name. But the state diocese said church rules prohibit congregations from walking away with church properties, and those properties are held in trust for the denomination.