Recently in the news is an Appellate Court decision regarding a Lutheran Church located in Staten Island, New York City’s “forgotten” borough. This case involved a lawsuit brought by the Eltingville Lutheran Church against its parent organization, the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (the “Synod”). This case applies many of the legal principles discussed in prior blog posts regarding religious institutions and the application of both the New York Religious Corporations Law, as well as the Establishment Clause contained in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The lawsuit arose when the Synod, which was the parent organization of the Church, issued a ruling that the Synod would permanently take over all management operations of the Church, including the ownership of all Church property and the real property on which the Church was located. They also declared their intention to close the Church, and to seize its property and assets following its application of permanent Synod administration.
The Church objected to such a takeover, arguing that it was solvent, had Congregants who worshipped at the Church on a regular basis, and that there was no reason for the Synod to take over the Church, or to close its doors.