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Church Not Exempt From Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

A federal appeals court said Wednesday that the First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom does not exempt churches from sexual harassment lawsuits.

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 to reinstate the lawsuit of John Bollard, who sued the California Province of the Jesuits in 1996 saying he was sexually harassed by a dozen priests over a period of five-and-a-half years.

The court’s ruling affirmed that sexual harassment lawsuits against religious institutions like the Catholic Church could be judged by the courts without interfering with freedom of religion.

Bollard declared that the ruling confirms that “the church is not above the law.”

Sources:

Nando Times - December 2, 1999