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7th Circuit: Federal courts or juries can’t decide religious questions

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Taking up three appeals stemming from a lawsuit filed surrounding control of religious documents and artifacts from the appearance of the Virgin Mary, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a federal judge erred in ruling that it should be up to a jury to decide whether a party to the lawsuit is still a religious sister.

Kevin B. McCarthy, et al., and Langsenkamp Family Apostolate, et al. v. Patricia Ann Fuller, et al., 12-2157, 12-2257, 12-2262, has been pending in federal court in Indianapolis for five years. The lawsuit is over who can be allowed to promote devotions to Our Lady of America and who may possess related artifacts. Sister Mary Ephrem saw the Virgin Mary appear in Rome City, Ind. in 1956 and programs of devotions to Our Lady were created. Ephrem was a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus when she and two other women broke off and created their own congregation. When Ephrem died, she left all her possessions – which were related to Our Lady – to Sister Mary Joseph Therese, born Patricia Fuller.

In 2005, attorney Kevin McCarthy and Albert H. Langsenkamp worked out an agreement to help Fuller with the devotions to Our Lady. But they had a falling out in 2007, leading to this suit over who should own the possessions and promote Our Lady. The main issue the 7th Circuit looked at was the claim McCarthy made that Fuller is a “fake nun,” which led to Fuller’s defamation counterclaim. McCarthy obtained a statement from the Apostolic Nunicature of the Holy See that Fuller is no longer a nun or religious sister and hasn’t been since 1983.

Judge William Lawrence decided that this issue should go before a jury. The 7th Circuit obtained a 51-page amicus brief from the Holy See on whether Fuller is still a member of a religious order. The Holy See said she is not since she left and joined the new congregation.

“In it the Holy See has spoken, laying to rest any previous doubts: Fuller has not been a member of any Catholic religious order for more than 30 years. Period. The district judge has no authority to question that ruling. A jury has no authority to question it. We have no authority to question it,” Judge Richard Posner wrote.

The 7th Circuit dismissed the other two appeals before it for either being premature or not final rulings.

 

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  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

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