A Staten Island Lutheran church’s legal challenges to the national church’s “synodical administration” takeover of the local church and its property center on religious determinations that a secular court system cannot rule on, a state appeals court has decided.

The court also rejected a related argument made by the local church in its lawsuit—that its request for injunctive relief, at least, should be decided solely by using neutral principles of law. That position does not mean that the takeover was wrongful either, wrote the appellate panel, because under that analysis, the relevant fact is that the church did not disaffiliate with the Synod governing organization before the takeover happened.

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