Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amicus brief in the Texas Supreme Court urging it to protect the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lubbock’s First Amendment rights to be free from state courts interfering with church doctrine and governance. By allowing a Catholic cleric’s defamation claim against the Diocese of Lubbock to proceed, the State’s brief argues, the lower court failed to give proper respect to the Diocese’s autonomy.
“Defending our religious liberty is one of my top priorities,” said Attorney General Paxton. “I will continue to fight for church autonomy and ensure that religious institutions are free from government interference. A church should not be subject to legal sanction for confronting serious societal problems, like sexual abuse, when matters of church governance or church doctrine are at issue.”
The case involves a decision by all the Roman Catholic dioceses in Texas to release the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor. The dioceses released these accusations as part of a Church-wide policy of transparency and accountability for addressing sexual abuse and alleged sexual abuse by clergy. The Diocese of Lubbock determined that an ordained Deacon of the Catholic Church had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor female with mental disabilities on two separate occasions. The Deacon sued the Diocese of Lubbock for defamation because it released his name –along with other clergy who had been credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor—on the Diocese’s website. The trial court concluded that the First Amendment prohibits Texas courts from adjudicating the claim but the court of appeals disagreed, forcing the Diocese to file its petition with the Texas Supreme Court.
Read a copy of the brief here.