An Arkansas judge ruled that a judicatory cannot claim a First Amendment privilege to fend off accountability for one of its’ clergy in a sexual abuse lawsuit.
A judge ruled that a Fayetteville woman’s lawsuit can proceed against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Little Rock, in which she claims the diocese knew or should have known about a sexual relationship she was lured into by a priest.
Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Wendell Griffen ruled there was no merit to claims by the diocese and Bishop Anthony Taylor that Shannon Oates’ lawsuit violates the religious protections guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in Saturday’s editions that Griffen determined the church couldn’t prove those protections should block the litigation.
Oates, 41, sued in April, claiming that Charles Kanu manipulated her into a sexual and romantic relationship while acting as her spiritual mentor as she converted to Catholicism between spring 2009 and October 2010 in Mountain Home. The relationship continued after Kanu was transferred to parishes in Marianna and North Little Rock….
…Church officials knew or should have known what Kanu was doing, according to the lawsuit, which alleges Kanu had acted similarly with other women. Church officials were negligent in supervising Kanu and failed to protect Oates from him, the lawsuit claims.
The church has denied any wrongdoing, arguing in its response to the lawsuit that any injuries Oates suffered, she brought, at least partially, on herself and that she should be suing Kanu as well. Taylor acknowledged he had Kanu investigated for another matter, and Kanu was dismissed….
…Church officials cited First Amendment protections in its call for Griffen to dismiss the lawsuit at a Feb. 24 hearing.