Judge rules for church in dispute with priest

Author: Carrie Cassidy
Date Published: 06/02/2006

A Serbian Orthodox priest who pulled a gun on his church’s president was ordered to pay the city church $2,350, ending a battle that wound through criminal and civil courts.

Judge Samuel Kline ruled in favor of the Holy Resurrection of Christ Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church of Lebanon in its lawsuit against Filip Velisavljevic, a priest who was asked to leave the church in early 2003.

Kline found that Velisavljevic negligently or intentionally damaged the parish house at 116-118 E. Weidman St. between December 1997 and February 2003.

Velisavljevic locked the church board out of the house, requiring a locksmith to replace the locks at a cost of $150, Kline wrote in his March 18 order.

Velisavljevic also admitted he took sacred items from the church, most of which he returned. But, Kline wrote, a sacred item that has significant value historically and spiritually to the church was returned damaged beyond repair.

”What we find particularly troubling is that [Velisavljevic], a Serbian priest, who knew or should have known both the value and the sacredness of this icon, gave no explanation of why he would roll the Plastanica and stuff into a duffel bag causing such damage to it,” Kline wrote. ”We can only find that it was, again, a spiteful, nonlegitimate reason.”

A flat cross and a memorial book listing all deceased members since the church’s inception in 1918 were never returned.

In December 2003, Velisavljevic was convicted by a jury of assault and reckless endangerment for pulling a gun on the church’s president. He was sentenced to 6 months in county prison for the December 2002 incident.

Velisavljevic was sentenced in June 2004 to 23 months’ probation for unlawfully obtaining $4,463 in self-employment tax money from the church. He entered a no-contest plea in that case.

Carrie Cassidy: 272-3759 or ccassidy@patriot-news.com