Yes, that's right. Fr. Kenendy's attorney is arguing that the procedures by which the House of Deputies received and acted upon the resolutions that became the Dennis Canon, as well as the House of Bishops, and the manner of its recordation in the Church's archives are not adequate under "principles of statutory interpretation and the common law of parliamentary procedure." (Cross-Motion at p.6). Therefore, d'ye see, the Dennis Canon is invalid. The source for these arguments? Roberts' Rules of Order. Oh, and a legal hornbook on the subject of how state legislatures enact legislation, which is then asserted to "govern" how one applies neutral principles of law to determine a property dispute's outcome.
CGS demands a far-ranging administrative review of the procedure and polity of TEC--a judicial strict scrutiny absent any legal warrant for doing so, and one that belies the concession that TEC's canons contain "only the most cursory instructions as to the generation of documents by the secretaries and registrars of the General Convention." (Cross Motion at 7). CGS, admitting there is no formal process by which resolutions are "enrolled" then goes on to claim that the Journal of the 1979 Convention does not clearly track the progress by which the Canon was passed, and as he memorably phrases it, "the Dennis Canon is nowhere to be found!" (Id. at 12). Or, rather, since the text does appear in full in at least one place as the CGS admits, the Journal leaves open the possibility that the text was amended, rejected, or in some manner vitiated. The fact that it then subsequently appeared in the official text of the Canons and has continued to do so for just about 30 years, specifically admitted by CGS (Id. at 9, para. 28) does not, in CGS's view, vitiate the argument.
This argument is, frankly, deeply silly. Not a single New York State case, or indeed a case from any other jurisdiction, is cited in support for the notion that a denomination is required to follow legislative procedure equivalent to that of a state legislature. The only New York case cited by CGS are First Presbyterian Church v United Presbyterian Church and Episcopal Diocese of Rochester v. Harnish, ___ N.Y.3d ___ (October 23, 2008). Harnish, in particular is relevant, here, one would think, as it held:
The remaining factor for consideration under neutral principles, however, requires that we look to "the constitution of the general church concerning the ownership and control of church property." It is this factor that we find dispositive. We conclude that the Dennis Canons clearly establish an express trust in favor of the Rochester Diocese and the National Church (see Jones, 443 US at 606), and that All Saints agreed to abide by this express trust either upon incorporation in 1927 or upon recognition as a parish in spiritual union with the Rochester Diocese in 1947. We therefore need not consider the existence of an implied trust. In agreeing to abide by all "canonical or legal enactments," it is unlikely that the parties intended that the local parish could reserve a veto over every future change in the canons. We find it significant, moreover, that All Saints never objected to the applicability or attempted to remove itself from the reach of the Dennis Canons in the more than twenty years since the National Church adopted the express trust provision (cf., First Presbyterian, 62 NY2d at 125).Now, CGS would distinguih Harnish on the ground that in that case the passage of the Dennis Canons was not disputed as a matter of fact. True enough. But here what is disputed is not the adoption of the Canons, but rather the validity of the process by which it was adopted and recorded, based on alleged defects in the archival evidence. There is no claim, for example, that TEC has not held itself out as having such a canon since the date of passage. The case from which the whole "neutral principles of law" approach stems, Jones v. Wolf, 443 U.S. 595 (1979) explains the requirements of the First Amendment:
It is also clear, however, that "the First Amendment severely circumscribes the role that civil courts may play in resolving church property disputes." Id., at 449. Most importantly, the First Amendment prohibits civil courts from resolving church property disputes on the basis of religious doctrine and practice. Serbian Orthodox Diocese v. Milivojevich, 426 U.S. 696, 710 (1976); Maryland & Va. Churches v. Sharpsburg Church, 396 U.S. 367, 368 (1970); Presbyterian Church I, 393 U.S., at 449 . As a corollary to this commandment, the Amendment requires that civil courts defer to the resolution of issues of religious doctrine or polity by the highest court of a hierarchical church organization. Serbian Orthodox Diocese, 426 U.S., at 724 -725; cf. Watson v. Jones, 13 Wall. 679, 733-734 (1872).In explaining the application of neutral principles, the Court emphasized that "the constitution of the general church can be made to recite an express trust in favor of the denominational church. The burden involved in taking such steps will be minimal. And the civil courts will be bound to give effect to the result indicated by the parties, provided it is embodied in some legally cognizable form."
No requirement that Roberts' Rules be applied, or the tenets of a 1940 handbook on statutes. Indeed, a respect for Church polity is required as a corollary to the required free exercise of religion, with only "minimal" steps be taken by the church in formalizing arrangements which are only required to be "embodied in some legally cognizable form." In other words, not only does Harnish forestall the argument CGS makes, the very depth of analysis CGS seeks from the court contradicts the lodestone of "neutral principles" jurisprudence. If you doubt this--ask how Fr. Kennedy would like a court doing this level of review of CANA at TEC's request?