Indiana High Court remands church property case for trial on implied trust issue

Howard Friedman, Religion Clause

In Presbytery of Ohio Valley, Inc. v. OPC, Inc., (IN Sup. Ct., July 31, 2012), the Indiana Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, held that the Presbyterian Church (USA) had failed to show that an express trust attached to property of Olivet Presbyterian Church, a congregation that broke away from the parent body over doctrinal differences.  However, the court remanded the case for trial on the issue of whether an implied resulting trust on the congregation’s property had been created by Olivet remaining a member of PC(USA) for 25 years after the parent body placed language in its governing documents (the Book of Order) providing that local church property was to be held in trust for PC(USA). In an opinion written by Chief Justice Dickson, the majority adopted the “neutral principles of law” approach for resolving all church property disputes in Indiana. Justices Sullivan and Massa, in a brief dissenting opinion, agreed with the Court of Appeals decision— which held that the congregation was bound by PC(USA)’s property trust clause. [Thanks to Michael E. Dirienzo for the lead.]