Was TECinSC in compliance with the South Carolina court's restraining order?
Computer coding told a different story
By Mary Ann Mueller
January 30, 2013
On the surface it looked like "The Episcopal CHURCH IN South Carolina" was in compliance with last week's restraining order commanding the newly-formed Episcopal Church jurisdiction to cease and desist in using the legally registered and protected names of "The Episcopal DIOCESE OF South Carolina." But just scratch beneath the surface and it was another story altogether.
TECinSC was running low under the radar as it appeared that it was complying with the "spirit" of the law but apparently not to the "letter" of the law.
At least one "The Episcopal CHURCH IN South Carolina" website and two intra-related password-protected website and pages were using creative computer programming codes to misdirect Internet search engines into thinking that they are searching for "The Episcopal DIOCESE OF South Carolina" when in fact the search engines drew up "The Episcopal CHURCH IN South Carolina" web offerings.
However over night, as the story started to leak out, changes were made on TECinSC source coding page and internal computer coding were altered.
Up until Tuesday morning www.episcopalofsc.org HTML source coding page's meta tag lines homed in on "The official website of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" for its website description and zeroed in on the words and phrases of: "The Episcopal Church" ... "Episcopalian" ... "South Carolina" ... "Church" ... "Episcopal" ... and "Diocese" as key words or word clusters. Now those search engine catch words and phrases have been scrubbed. The TECinSC meta tag now simply reads: "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina," and there are no key words listed.
"Web pages often include metadata in the form of meta tags," Wikipedia explains. "Description and keywords meta tags are commonly used to describe the Web page's content. Most search engines use this data when adding pages to their search index."
So apparently TECinSC meta tags were set up to trick an Internet search engines into thinking "The Episcopal CHURCH IN South Carolina" was in reality "The Episcopal DIOCESE OF South Carolina" because the TECinSC's meta tag's name description called itself "The official website of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." Until Tuesday morning the meta tag's keywords section did not include the word phrase "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina" rather the word "diocese" was used as a deceptive catch word.
Late Monday evening when the words "The Episcopal CHURCH IN South Carolina" were used by VOL in a Google search the results included "The Episcopal DIOCESE OF South Carolina's" website as well as several recent media stories about Judge Diane Goodstein's temporary restraining order as well as blog and media articles about TECinSC's weekend formation, including stories from Virtueonline, the Wounded Bird, the Christian Post, SC Episcopalians, the Coastal Source, and the Episcopal Digital Network.
Even with the meta tag changes made "The Episcopal CHURCH IN South Carolina's" website still comes up in a Google search identified as the home page of "The Episcopal DIOCESE OF South Carolina." However, when the clearly visible www.episcopaldioceseofsc.org/index.html URL web address is clicked it immediately is defaulted to the revamped TECinSC http://www.episcopalofsc.org/index.html website and not to "The Episcopal DIOCESE IN South Carolina's" http://www.dioceseofsc.org/ URL web address.
In addition the creative computer programming trickery was also played out in TECinSC's Open Graph protocol meta description tag line which was also coded to say it was "The official website of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina."
"The Open Graph protocol enables any web page to become a rich object in a social graph," the Open Graph protocol website explains. "For instance, this is used on Facebook to allow any web page to have the same functionality as any other object on Facebook."
That meant when TECinSC's Open Graph meta tag's description code read: "The official website of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," the "episcopalofsc" title was being embedded into the various social media offerings such as Facebook and Twitter.
Again TECinSC Open Graph meta tag description now simply states: "The Episcopal Church in South Carolina," the offending "The official website of the continuing Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina," wording has disappeared.
However, as of Tuesday morning TECinSC is still running two password-protected pages. One which opens to the November 2012 "Open Letter to Episcopalians" written by those who erroneously claimed to be the steering committee of "The Episcopal DIOCESE OF South Carolina." The banner contains both the colorful diocesan crest and TEC's red, white and blue shield.
That letter on the website http://www.episcopalofsc.org/401/login.php?redirect=/open-letter-to-episcopalians.html comes up with a 401 error and requires a password to enter. The meta tag simply reads: "This area is password protected ." Although the very same letter is still publically accessible as a PDF at TECinSC's original URL website at: http://www.episcopaldioceseofsc.org/uploads/1/2/9/8/12989303/open_letter_to_episcopalians_nov_2012.pdf which is not so hidden that it cannot be found. And the letter needs no password to open and read it.
This letter is laced with many references to the "continuing Episcopal DIOCESE OF South Carolina" which reflect on The Episcopal Church and not to Bishop Mark Lawrence's established diocese.
According to Judge Diane Goodstein's Jan. 23 Temporary Restraining Order "No individual, organization, association or entity, whether incorporated or not, may use, assume, or adopt in any way, directly or indirectly, the registered names and the seal or mark of The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina." This means the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, commonly known as The Episcopal Church, and the newly-formed "The Episcopal CHURCH IN South Carolina."
The hiding of computer programming codes, which misdirected Internet search engines and gave false results, was a possible violation of the South Carolina Circuit Court's Restraining Order reference to the indirect misuse of the legally protected name of the 228-year-old South Carolina diocese which is under the spiritual leadership of Bishop Lawrence.
One other known TECinSC website is also password protected. That is "The Episcopal CHURCH IN South Carolina's" stewardship website at: http://scstewardship.com/index.html which was publically accessible until late last Thursday (Jan. 24) evening when the Weebly password protection was added.
The last time the unrestricted South Carolina Stewardship website was seen it directed donations to be sent to "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina" and gave a different mailing address than what is used by Bishop Lawrence, which means any moneys sent to that counterfeit address would go in TECinSC pockets and not be used by the legitimate Episcopal DIOCESE OF South Carolina.
Even though the website is now password protected it is still up, running and assumed operational. If there were a dead URL web address it would not open up to any webpage. However the URL opens and the webpage says: "This area is password protected" ... "Please enter the password below" ... "Login."
The website's head and title meta tag reads: "Error 401 - Authorization required."
Although it is curious to note that on Tuesday the Weebly Site Login was slated to expire at one second past midnight Greenwich Mean Time on Wednesday, Feb. 27 which translated to one second past 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, Feb. 26, less than a month from now.
As of Wednesday morning the Weebly Site Login expiration time as been updated to reflect a March 1 expiration date. Now the meta tag reads: "'WeeblySiteLogin='+password+'; expires=Fri, 01-Mar-2013 00:00:01 GMT..."
One other problematic site also comes up where The Episcopal Church was trying to hide, all the while in plain sight, when an Internet search for "The Episcopal DIOCESE OF South Carolina" is launched. What is returned on the Google search is: "South Carolina - Episcopal Church." The www.episcopalchurch.org/diocese/south-carolina web address brings a person to The Episcopal Church's website for its dioceses and the South Carolina webpage specifically. The listed P.O. Box 20485, Charleston, SC 29413 mailing address and the (843) 259-2016 phone number are for the headquarters of "The Episcopal CHURCH IN South Carolina;" not Bishop Lawrence's diocesan office.
On Wednesday morning the "diocesan" information now lists the Rt. Rev. Charles vonRosenberg as the Provisional Bishop. However, the named cathedral is still St. Luke & St. Paul in Charleston. Clicking on the cathedral's website at: http://your-cathedral.org/ gets this response: "YOU HAVE COME TO THIS PAGE DUE TO AN UNAUTHORIZED LINK. The Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul is not affiliated with, nor a member of The Episcopal Church or with any entity claiming to be a diocese in union with The Episcopal Church in South Carolina. This Parish is voluntarily associated only with The Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina who also does business as The Diocese of South Carolina and The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina. Neither The Diocese of South Carolina nor the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul consent to this unlawful use of its name."
The TEC website also lists 77 congregations as belonging to its version of the "The Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina." However when the TECinSC roll call of parishes and missions was taken, at Saturday's organizational meeting, only 28 congregations answered the call and were seated with voice and vote.
Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline
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