WV Court considers whether the First Amendment protects diocese from consumer protection laws

The Charleston Gazette-Mail

September 22, 2020

By Lacie Pierson


The West Virginia Supreme Court is considering whether it’s a violation of the First Amendment for Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to pursue a case against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston under the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

During about an hour’s worth of arguments in Charleston on Tuesday, the justices asked attorneys whether it was possible for the attorney general to hold the diocese accountable for potential violations of the consumer law in a way that didn’t impede its faith doctrine or church governance.

The arguments stem from a case filed in Ohio County Circuit Court in March 2019.

Morrisey filed the suit claiming that the diocese knowingly employed priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse, at Catholic schools and a camp owned and managed by the diocese. The diocese, Morrisey alleges, did not perform adequate background checks for the priests before hiring them, according to the lawsuit.

The diocese failed to disclose such issues in its advertising, according to the lawsuit

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