Episcopal Church owns Falls Church property; Supreme Court lets Virginia court ruling stand


The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the ruling of the the Virginia Supreme Court awarding the building for the Episcopal Church of Falls Church to the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

The Supreme Court on Monday let stand a Virginia court’s ruling that the Episcopal Church owns the historic property known as the Falls Church, the subject of a bitter, multimillion-dollar property dispute with a conservative congregation that left the denomination.

The justices gave no reason for declining to review the decision of the Virginia Supreme Court that the 3,000-member congregation, which voted in 2006 to leave the Episcopal Church, did not have the right to keep the sprawling property known as the Falls Church.

The Falls Church property is one of the country’s largest Episcopal churches and is a landmark in downtown Falls Church.

The breakaway congregation, now called the Falls Church Anglican, has been worshiping in the Bishop O’Connell High School auditorium in Arlington County while it sought to overturn lower court decisions.

Virginia’s high court ruled that the property belongs to the mainline denomination but said some of the nearly $3 million in church coffers belongs to the Falls Church Anglican congregation.

The court also rejected an appeal from a Pennsylvania school district that disciplined middle-school students who wore “I Boobies!” bracelets to promote breast cancer awareness among young people.

The justices gave no reasoning for declining to review a federal appeals court ruling striking down a ban on the bracelets from the Easton Area School District. It said the suggestive message was causing problems.

Lower courts sided with two students who sued the district in 2010 with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Robert Barnes has been a Washington Post reporter and editor since 1987. He has covered the Supreme Court since November 2006.
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