Gay Fort Worth attorney calls proposed changes affecting church property disputes unconstitutional

Posted on 30 Jan 2009 at 2:26pm

Last week I did a Soundout with Jon Nelson, a gay Fort Worth attorney who’s representing Episcopalians who want to stay in the church in a property dispute with those who voted to leave last year. Today, Nelson is quoted in this Dallas Morning News article about proposed legislation that would make it easier for dioceses that leave the church to hang on to property. Needless to say, Nelson doesn’t like the legislation.

Jon Nelson, a lawyer who represents Fort Worth-area Episcopalians remaining loyal to their denomination, questioned the measure on church-state separation grounds.

“When you have a hierarchical church that has determined ownership of property, I don’t believe a state Legislature has the ability to change that,” he said. “If it attempts to do so, I believe the legislation is unconstitutional.”

But Nelson said the bill should worry a range of religious groups.

“I would assume it’s directed at the Episcopalian controversy, but it certainly would affect every hierarchical church, including the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church,” he said.

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