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SC Supreme Court Justice has Deep ties to National Episcopal Church

SC Supreme Court Justice has Deep ties to National Episcopal Church

By Ladson F. Mills III
Special to Virtueonline
September 24, 2015

Despite uncomfortable questioning by SC Supreme Court Justices on Tuesday to the Diocese of South Carolina legal team the key drama may have been unmasked. There is an emerging concern with associate Supreme Court Justice Kaye Hearn's highly controversial decision not to recuse herself from the hearing.

Justice Hearn is a member of the Episcopal Forum of South Carolina which is squarely in the camp of the national church. It has sponsored several conferences under the name of Enthusiastically Episcopalian.

Justice Hearn also is a member of St Anne's Episcopal Church in Conway, South Carolina where her husband serves as a vestry member. St Anne's has remained aligned with the national church and Bishop Charles vonRosenberg, the plaintiff in the case before the court is her bishop.

Justice Hearn's name appears on the Episcopal Forum's the web site as a member. The site features a link to the South Carolina Episcopalians Blog. This blog is known for and unyielding partisanship and highly vitriolic rhetoric against the Diocese of South Carolina and Bishop Mark Lawrence in particular.

In a September 22nd diatribe the blog refers to Federal Judge Weston Houck as a contrarian for his decision to defer to the South Carolina Supreme Court in the very same case heard by Justice Hearn. Federal Judge Houck concluded the State Supreme Court case was ,parallel action to the one brought before his court. This means the concerns of the plaintiffs will be heard but in a different court

On September 12th South Carolina Episcopalians Blog referred to those who left the national church as rebels. One can only speculate if this was a clumsy effort to smear supporters of the Diocese of South Carolina in an attempt to link them to the Confederate flag issue.

VOL has further learned if Justice Hearn was not challenged prior to the Supreme Court hearing and did not recuse herself that her input cannot be challenged.

One can only wonder as to the strategy of Diocese of South Carolina legal team in allowing her to remain on the court unchallenged as there seems to be an incontrovertible conflict of interest. Perhaps there is fear to challenge her would risk enmity from the other justices.

Supreme Court Justices are often irritating in their constant interruption of lawyers presenting oral arguments. Justices have been known to play to their base or use questions to intentionally mask prejudices. However Justice Hearn's interruption of South Carolina lawyer Alan Runyan to assert he current court is a far different court from the one who previously ruled parishes could leave the national church with property intact is profoundly disturbing. Especially concerning was her statement ,Of course we take precedent very seriously, but this is a different court now.

Justice Hearn is a highly regarded jurist, but her judgment in this matter is highly questionable. The implications of this case are far too reaching and critical to allow for suspicion of a tainted ruling.

She is responsible for making herself part of the story. She has just too many ties to the plaintiff.

Ladson F. Mills III is a priest with over thirty years pastoral experience. He is retired and lives with his wife in South Carolina. He currently serves as Scholar in Residence at Church of our Saviour, Johns Island. He is a regular contributor to Virtueonline.

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