A chapel was acquired with the subscriptions of a congregation which seceded from the Church of Scotland in 1737 and subsequently split over whether a magistrate might suppress heresy. Each of the rival groups claimed that the chapel belonged to them.
Held: No case was made to enable the court to say, that the adherents to the original opinions should, under such circumstances, for that adherence forfeit their rights. If, in the course of a schism, a few, wish to depart from the church’s constitution and set up their own church, they are at liberty to do so. But, subject to the provisions of the church’s constitution, they are not at liberty to take with them property belonging to the church from which they are seceding: ‘… if property was given in trust for A, B, C, etc., forming a congregation for religious worship; if the instrument provided for the case of a schism, then the court would act upon it; but if there was no such provision in the instrument, and the congregation happened to divide, he did not find that the law of England would execute the trust for a religious society, at the expense of a forfeiture of their property by the cestui que trusts, for adhering to the opinions and principles in which the congregation had originally united. He found no case which authorised him to say that the court would enforce such a trust, not for those who adhered to the original principles of the society, but merely with a reference to the majority; . . ‘
Lord Eldon LC
(1820) 2 Bli 529, (1813) 1 Dow 1,  EngR 392, (1813) 1 Dow PC 1, (1813) 3 ER 601
Applied – General Assembly of Free Church of Scotland v Overtoun HL 1904
Craigdallie stated settled law: ‘My Lords, I disclaim altogether any right in this or any other civil court of this realm to discuss the truth or reasonableness of any of the doctrines of this or any other religious association, or to say whether . .
Cited – The Bahamas District of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas and Others v The Hon Vernon J Symonette M P Speaker of the House of Assembly and 7 Others (No 70 of 1998) and Ormond Hilton Poitier and 14 Others v The Methodist Church PC 26-Jul-2000
PC (The Bahamas) The Methodist community had split, eventually leading to a new Act. Others now challenged the constitionality of the Act, and that lands had been transferred in breach of the constitution.
Explained – Attorney-General v Pearson 1817
No Alteration to Charty’s Objects
A protestant dissenters’ meeting house in Wolverhampton which was declared by a trust deed to be held for ‘the worship and service of God’ was the subject of a dispute between the schismatic congregation. The issue was the nature of the worship . .
Not followed – Varsani and others v Jesani, Patel and Her Majesty’s Attorney-General CA 3-Apr-1998
A Hindu religious sect, constituted as a charity, had split into two factions.
Held: The court had jurisdiction to order that the assets of the sect should be divided under the powers in the Act, and held upon separate trusts for the two . .
Cited – Couper v Burn 1859
The court considered a dispute as to the doctrine of the Free Church of Scotland. In doing so it was not restricted to the original documents but could look at doctrinal developments to the date of the action. . .
Cited – The Free Church of Scotland v The General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland SCS 24-Mar-2005
Each group claimed to by the true Free Church of Scotland. The dispute had a very long history. One claimed that the other had abandoned a fundamental principle of the faith, the right of ‘continued protest’.
Held: It was necessary to examine . .
See Also – Craigdallie And Others v Aikman And Others PC 21-Jul-1820
Cited – Shergill and Others v Khaira and Others SC 11-Jun-2014
The parties disputed the trusts upon which three Gurdwaras (Sikh Temples) were held. The Court of Appeal had held that the issues underlying the dispute were to be found in matters of the faith of the Sikh parties, and had ordered a permanent stay. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Updated: 29 April 2022; Ref: scu.187516