Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Former Nun Appeal

Associated Press, carried in The Pennlive
April 23, 2007

Washington — A former Catholic nun won't be allowed to revive a lawsuit in which she challenged her dismissal as college chaplain at Gannon University.

The Supreme Court on Monday denied an appeal by Lynette Petruska, the first woman chaplain at Gannon.

Petruska claimed in her lawsuit that she was demoted in 2002 and forced to resign because of her gender, and because she helped expose accusations of a cover-up involving a priest who took a leave of absence after an alleged affair with a woman.

In September, a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled that the "ministerial exception" barred it from considering her claims. Under the exception, courts avoid deciding legal disputes between religious institutions and clergy to protect the rights of denominations to govern their affairs according to their beliefs.

Petruska claimed ministers should not have to give up protection from other kinds of discrimination, such as race or gender.

Petruska, who now works as an attorney in St. Louis, said Monday that the Supreme Court will eventually have to address the issue.

She also said she can still pursue a breach of contract and fraud claim against the university and will file an amended pleading.


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