November 18, 2020
By Lacie Pierson
CHARLESTON — Schools and camps operated by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston aren’t subject to the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The ruling is a blow to a lawsuit launched by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in March 2019, when he sued the diocese, alleging the diocese didn’t conduct background checks, despite advertising that it did so, and knowingly employed priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse at Catholic schools and a camp owned and managed by the diocese.
In the broader ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that no part of the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act could apply to religious schools or camps. The court ruled 4-1, with Justice Margaret Workman being the dissenting vote.
In its ruling, the court said the Consumer Credit and Protection Act is in conflict with a 1983 law that establishes operational parameters for religious schools. That law includes language that says as long as religious schools meet those standards, then they aren’t subject to any other laws, with the exception of laws pertaining to fire, safety, sanitation and immunization.
In the majority’s opinion, Justice Beth Walker noted that the attorney general’s allegations against the diocese were “deeply troubling” and noted that teachers, youth camp administrators and counselors, and members of the clergy are required by law to report incidents of sexual abuse to police.
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