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The Right Reverend Charles G. Vonrosenberg v. The Right Lawrence

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division

September 19, 2019

The Right Reverend Charles G. vonRosenberg, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
The Right Reverend Mark J. Lawrence, et al., Defendants. The Episcopal Church, Plaintiff in Intervention

          ORDER AND OPINION

          RICHARD MARK GERGEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Disassociated Parishes thirty-five motions for summary judgment on all claims. (Dkt. Nos. 556 - 70; 572 - 579; 581 - 583; 587 - 593; 599 -600.)[1] The Motions are granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         This case arises out of a schism in 2012 in the Historic Diocese, originally known as the "Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of South Carolina, " in which certain members and parishes sought to dissociate from The Episcopal Church, a nationwide hierarchical church. The parties have litigated property issues relating to the schism in the state courts of South Carolina, culminating in a 2017 decision in the South Carolina Supreme Court, and have raised in this action issues surrounding the use of certain federal and state law marks in contest between the national church and its affiliates and the disassociating diocese and its affiliates. As in separate Orders, it is important to identify the major parties in this dispute. The parties are as follows:

1. Plaintiff The Episcopal Church of the United States (hereafter "TEC") is the national church and an Intervenor Plaintiff in this action;
2. The Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of South Carolina (hereafter the "Historic Diocese"), which was formed as early as 1785 and has long affiliated with TEC;
3. Plaintiff The Episcopal Church in South Carolina (hereafter "TECSC"), which was headed initially by Plaintiff Bishop Charles G. vonRosenberg and subsequently by Plaintiff Provisional Bishop Gladstone B. Adams, III and is affiliated with TEC;
4. Defendant The Diocese of South Carolina (hereafter "Disassociated Diocese"), headed by Defendant Right Reverend Mark Lawrence and was formed following the schism in 2012 to disassociate from TEC;
5. The Defendant parishes associated with the Disassociated Diocese (hereafter "Disassociated Parishes") are the movants on the motions here and are members of the Disassociated Diocese.

         As held in a separate Order, Plaintiffs' own the following marks. TEC's marks are:

• "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States";
• "The Episcopal Church";
• "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You";
• "La Iglesia Episcopal", and; • The Episcopal Shield.[2]

(Dkt. No. 595-5 - 595-12; 595-64 - 595-69.) TECSC's marks are:

• "Diocese of South Carolina";
• "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina";
• "The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina";
• The Diocesan Seal.[3]

(Dkt. No. 584-3.)

         In conjunction with the summary judgment briefing, the Disassociated Parishes filed thirty-five motions for summary judgment as to all of Plaintiffs' claims. Each motion has been fully briefed, with the Plaintiffs responding to the motion and the moving Party filing a reply.

         II. Legal Standard

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the movant must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment has the burden of identifying the portions of the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, any admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, Ml U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The Court will construe all inferences and ambiguities against the movant and in favor of the non-moving party. U.S. v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962). The existence of a mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position is insufficient to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., Ml U.S. 242, 252 (1986). However, an issue of material fact is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-movant. Id. at 257.

         "When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). "In the language of the Rule, the nonmoving party must come forward with 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 587. "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting First Natl Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)).

         III. Discussion

         The Plaintiffs TEC and TECSC collectively bring five causes of action against all Defendants, including the Disassociated Parishes: trademark infringement under the Lanham Act, trademark dilution under the Lanham Act, false advertising under the Lanham Act, trademark infringement under state law, and cancellation of trademarks under state law. The Disassociated Parishes move for summary judgment on each of these claims. The Court, in a separate Order, granted Plaintiffs summary judgment on each of these claims. The ...


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