Judge dismisses lawsuit over Greek Orthodox Archdiocese

Posted: Friday, August 20, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by parishioners who want a greater say in how the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America operates.

A New York State Supreme Court justice ruled Aug. 6 that secular courts have no authority to intervene in how the church is governed, because of First Amendment protections against government interference in religion and legal precedents protecting church-state separation.

The reform group Orthodox Christian Laity had funded the suit, which was filed in February against the archdiocese and its archbishop. The suit sought to invalidate a governing charter approved last year by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is based in Istanbul.

Bartholomew has direct jurisdiction over the U.S. archdiocese and made changes to the charter without the approval of the archdiocese's legislative body, called the Clergy-Laity Congress. The charter keeps power over key decisions, such as choosing bishops, in the partriarch's hands overseas.

The archdiocese announced the judge's ruling, but did not comment.

Jay Morakis, a spokesman for Orthodox Christian Laity, said his group was considering whether to file an appeal. The organization filed the lawsuit ''as a last resort'' to ''open frank discussion'' about making the U.S. archdiocese more self-governing, he said.

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