Courts Rule That First Amendment Does Not Bar Clerical Abuse Suits
August 22, 2013
In separate decisions, a federal district judge and a Connecticut court have rejected dioceses’ arguments that the First Amendment bars lawsuits against clerical sexual abuse, according to the Religion Clause blog.
Rejecting a motion by the Diocese of Yakima, the federal judge ruled that “the Free Exercise Clause does not bar a negligence claim against Defendants for hiring [Deacon Aaron] Ramirez and placing him in a position of trust and authority from which he was able to sexually abuse Plaintiff.”
According to the BishopAccountability.org database, the deacon fled to Mexico after being accused of raping a 17-year-old male in 1999. Blessed John Paul II subsequently laicized the deacon, and he became an Episcopal priest.
In the other case, “a Connecticut trial court rejected the contention of a Catholic diocese that the First Amendment and the ministerial exception doctrine preclude civil courts from deciding claims against religious institutions growing out of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy,” according to the blog.