A federal judge in Washington state ruled that all churches and schools in the Diocese of Spokane can be liquidated to pay legal settlements of sex abuse victims.
A federal bankruptcy judge ruled Friday that all the parish churches, parochial schools and other property of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane can be liquidated to pay victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The decision, expected to have ramifications for dioceses across the nation, is a major defeat for Spokane Bishop William Skylstad, who had argued he did not control individual parishes and thus they were not available to cover settlement costs.
“It is not a violation of the First Amendment to apply federal bankruptcy law to identify and define property of the bankruptcy estate even though the Chapter 11 debtor is a religious organization,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Patricia Williams wrote.
If a religious group requires specific sacred and sanctified space to engage in their religious practices and the government takes away that space to give it to someone else, how is that not interference in the right of Catholics to worship in freedom? I think the judge is wrong. Bankruptcy law does not trump the Constitution, however much it seems that it should. But will the Supreme Court that gave us Kelo v. Connecticut, a clear violation of the Constitution, protect this constitutional principle?
And if this appeal fails, I can imagine a day in which the Catholic Church in the US is driven underground, Mass celebrated in public parks, rented halls, and people’s homes. Don’t think it couldn’t happen. Don’t understimate the greed of the plaintiff’s bar.