Free Church Press Release Re. Opinion of Lord Uist

The Free Church Denomination has issued the following press release in connection to recent case regarding the Broadford church and manse properties.   Sleat & Strath Free Church have no further comment to add to this at present, other than to underline that we continue to seek opportunities to serve God in the area, and are actively seeking to resume services regularly in Broadford, and that we see ruling is a big step towards this goal.

Free Church of Scotland successful in Broadford local property case

Lord Uist has found in favour of the Free Church of Scotland in the Court of Session case concerning congregational property in Broadford on the Isle of Skye.

The breakaway Free Church Continuing (FCC) formed in 2000 had been occupying the church and manse. On the retirement of the Rev. Allan Maciver, who had joined the FCC and been suspended from the ministry of the Free Church, the Free Church of Scotland took legal action to regain the property. The case was heard before Lord Uist in the Court of Session from 12th to 15th May.

Lord Uist totally dismissed the claims of the FCC and adjudged the property to belong to the local congregation of the Free Church of Scotland (FC).

Lord Uist’s Opinion is clear and decisive concerning the identity of the true Free Church of Scotland: “The FC which existed before January 2000 is the same FC which has continued to exist since then.  On the other hand, the FCC is a new body which was set up after January 2000”, and he found that the Free Church Continuing themselves “do not dispute that the FCC is a new body set up after January 2000 and that it has a separate and distinct organisation and structure from the FC.”  He also made reference to the fact that “the two bodies are distinct registered charities.”

In addition, he noted that the FCC did not claim that the Free Church had departed from fundamental principles (the only basis on which the FCC could have a legal claim to property).

Lord Uist concluded that: “The FCC are not, either in name or composition, the FC, they have entirely separated themselves from the FC and have no right under the trust to the use and occupation of property intended for the benefit of the FC.  In other words, the FCC are a breakaway group who have taken themselves outwith the institutional framework of the FC and set up their own, new framework.”

He also agreed with the Free Church’s contention that if the FCC were successful in their claim, “the result would be astonishing and lead to chaos” where any breakaway group from a voluntary organisation could claim property.

The Free Church are delighted with the clear decision and hope that this will pave the way for settling other local property issues without recourse to law.

The full text of Lord Uist’s Opinion can be found at:

http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2009CSOH113.html

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