Referral Back to General Conference
This decision sends a request back to the plenary of General Conference without any analysis or interpretation. The request came too late for the Council to respond, they write. The Council took no jurisdiction so it cannot hold over the request to the next session under the new Council. In effect, because of the lateness of the request, the petition dies in the omnibus bill as a non-concurred petition and may never see the light of day again . . . unless there is someone out there persistent enough to try it again in four years. I have been that persistent over the decades I submitted petitions and I expect the maker will bring it back in 2020.
The Council does not indicate any topic but the General Conference website still allows a search for specific petitions. This one would like the Church to be able to appeal findings of a trial court that are egregious violations of the Discipline.
The Discipline allows appeals by the church counsel to the jurisdictional appellate committee if a decision to drop charges appears to church counsel to be egregious. The Discipline does not allow decisions of trial courts to be appealed by the Church if church counsel thinks the decision is egregious. The petition referred back to the plenary would have changed that.
As I am working on this commentary, I find that there is a lot of legislative and judicial history to work through and know why the majority of the Council threw up their hands in frustration at having to sort it out before the conclusion of General Conference.
Just checking the word “egregious,” one of the key words in the petition, took me almost two hours and that search did little to add to any decision the Council might have made. I thought there was a rationale among the decisions with that word that might explain why Committees on Investigation may be appealed by the Church and not church trials. The only rationale may be, “It is in the Discipline.”
The arguments in the cases, mainly related to Rev. Karen Dammann, were over the Committee on Investigation’s dropping charges even though Rev. Dammann openly confessed. The Council said her self avowal was sufficient and not forwarding the matter to trial was an egregious error. They referred the matter back through the appellate committee to the committee on investigation urging that there be a trial. There was, in fact. The trial court found Rev Dammann not guilty. She did not appeal the verdict, of course. When a motion at General Conference for the Judicial Council to review the trial court finding, the Council had to refuse since the Discipline does not allow the Church to appeal a trial court decision. The Council does not have jurisdiction to handle an appeal by any route other than direct appeal by the respondent allowed in Paragraph 2715.
To my knowledge, despite the Council’s stating in JCD 985 that bishops were not supposed to appoint self-avowed practicing homosexuals, Rev. Dammann continues under appointment because she is a member in good standing. A trial court can find a person self-avowing practicing being a homosexual as insufficient evidence that s/he is actually guilty. No one wants to go into a bedroom to find out. As of this writing, I am unaware that the Council has ruled against a trial court on what constitutes sufficient evidence.
And this memorandum, 1322, does nothing except remove the opportunity for it to be decided until another day.