Here Is the Church, Now Who Owns the Steeple? A Revised Approach to Church Property Disputes


Adam E. Lyons


This article reviews two approaches to the implementation of neutral principles of law – the constitutionally permissible method of resolving property disputes between bodies in a religious hierarchy. Though both approaches may be valid, the formal title approach, as implemented by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Presbytery of Beaver-Butler v. Middlesex Presbyterian Church, leads to problems in application that have been rectified by that court’s more recent decision in In re St. James the Less. It is the contention of this article that future courts and practitioners facing church property disputes can draw guidance from the St. James decision when faced any church property dispute to be resolved under neutral principles of law.


Civil Rights and Discrimination | Constitutional Law | Religion Law

Date of this Version

March 2006