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About 50 conservative Episcopal churches in South Carolina are in court this week, trying to keep their name, seal and $500 million in land and buildings after they broke away from the national denomination in a wide-ranging theological dispute.

The breakaway group, the Diocese of South Carolina, said it had to leave the national church not just because of the ordination of gays, but a series of decisions it says show national Episcopalians have lost their way in the teachings of Jesus and salvation.

The national church argues the split wasn't properly made, and it is fighting for the 20 or so churches in South Carolina staying under its umbrella.

Property disputes in the Episcopal Church and other Protestant churches have been going on for decades and end with varying results.

In March, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to intervene in a dispute between the Episcopal Church and a conservative northern Virginia congregation that left the denomination in a rift over homosexuality and other issues. The court left in place a judge's decision siding with the national church, ending a seven-year fight over a church that traces its roots back to George Washington.


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