A Civil War-era Virginia law unconstitutionally infringes on a religious organization's right to determine its own structure and internal policies, according to a friend-of-the-court brief (pdf) filed by the Baptist Joint Committee and other diverse religious groups. From the BJC's statement:

Virginia Code 57-9 distinguishes between hierarchical and congregational churches in determining property rights in the event of a division. In churches with hierarchical or connected structures, the statute threatens to upset the manner of property division established by the denomination. . . .

In the brief, the groups assert Section 57-9 “discriminates against and among churches — impeding the use of trust provisions by churches alone, and expressing a frank bias against ‘hierarchical’ or ‘connectional’ denominations.”

The case involves church property disputes after 11 congregations chose to leave the Episcopal Church.