The Virginia Supreme Court has mostly affirmed a lower court ruling that granted control of a historic Falls Church sanctuary to the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal congregation that meets at the building. After the majority of the Falls Church congregation, along with six other northern Virginia churches, left the national Episcopal Church in 2006 over concerns related to growing liberalism and affirmation of gay clergy, the denomination began suing the breakaway congregations to seize their properties and bank accounts. The state Supreme Court decision is the latest in a series of rulings nationally that have tended to favor the Episcopal denomination over local congregations, even when large majorities of those congregations have agreed to leave. Falls Church Anglican, the breakaway church, has been worshipping in a high-school auditorium as it awaited the ruling.
In response to the decision, the Rt. Rev. Shannon S. Johnston, the Episcopal bishop of Virginia, said, “We are grateful that the Supreme Court of Virginia has once again affirmed the right of Episcopalians to worship in their spiritual home at The Falls Church Episcopal.” Johnston has been a vocal proponent of adopting a liturgy to bless same-sex relationships, and in December 2012 he ordained a woman who is reportedly a non-celibate lesbian in a ceremony at the Falls Church sanctuary.
John Yates, the rector of Falls Church Anglican, expressed disappointment at the ruling. “Our faith and our future do not depend on court decisions,” Yates said. “The Lord works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), and we had purposed to praise Him regardless of the outcome.” He did note that the court had not approved the seizure of all the church’s financial assets, just its physical property. Falls Church Anglican remains affiliated with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a “missionary district” of the conservative Anglican Church of Nigeria. CANA has 56 parishes in Virginia alone.
A Michigan judge has approved a $700,000 settlement in a class action lawsuit against McDonald’s restaurants by Detroit-area Muslims, who charged that a Dearborn McDonald’s served them chicken falsely advertised as halal, or prepared in accordance with Muslim law. Muslim dietary regulations require that animals slaughtered for food should be prepared in a particular manner, and that the butcher must utter a short prayer invoking Allah before killing the animal.
Dearborn, one of the most heavily Arab and Muslim cities in America, has the only two McDonald’s in the United States that serve some halal chicken products. The Michigan suit, initially filed by Dearborn Heights resident Ahmed Ahmed, claims that the McDonald’s in question ran out of halal chicken and began serving non-halal chicken sandwiches without advising customers.
The judge’s settlement has proven as controversial as the suit itself, as it grants more than half of the cash award to the Huda Clinic, a Muslim medical center in Detroit, and to the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn. A Dearborn attorney tried to stop the settlement in early April because he said that the clinic and museum were not part of the class action suit.
American and European companies have come under growing pressure in recent years to offer halal products and to prohibit non-halal ones. Qantas Airlines recently announced that it would no longer serve pork (which is not halal) on flights to and from Europe. Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper led its coverage of the Qantas story with the headline “Pigs CAN’T fly.” —T.K.