Members of 11 Episcopal churches on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation have filed lawsuits in Oglala Sioux tribal court asking that the Episcopal Diocese of South Dakota be prevented from closing their churches and from deconsecrating buildings and cemeteries in the process.
On Monday, the executive committee of the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council also unanimously approved a resolution stating that the diocese should return those properties to the tribe in compliance with federal laws that govern the use of reservation lands for missionary or educational works.
The rite of deconsecrating a church allows that building to be used for secular purposes, but it would not necessarily prevent it from being used as a church again at some point.
The legal papers were served Monday at the diocesan offices in Sioux Falls but had not been signed by a tribal judge as of Tuesday. The plaintiffs seek an immediate hearing to stop the closures.
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