May 10, 2006

Diocese lawsuit dismissed

Yakima Herald-Republic


A lawsuit accusing the Catholic Diocese of Yakima of forcing an employee to quit has been thrown out by a judge as a constitutional violation of the separation of church and state.

Robert Fontana, formerly the diocesan director of evangelism, sued the church last year, claiming he was forced to quit for complaining about Bishop Carlos Sevilla's handing of allegations against a priest who was suspected of downloading photographs of nude boys off the Internet.

But Yakima County Superior Court Judge Susan Hahn, who heard arguments last week to dismiss the suit, ruled Tuesday that case law clearly spells out a so-called "ministerial exception" that prohibits the government and courts from interfering in matters of religious belief.

Fontana's lawyer argued his job duties were more properly defined as educational and administrative. Hahn disagreed, saying his job was to "perpetuate dogma and teachings of the church."

Posted by kshaw at May 10, 2006 05:38 AM