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Lawsuit about ordination of women in Roman Catholicism

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bullet ''It's less likely I'll be burned as a witch now,'' Susan Rockwell, commenting in 2002-MAY on whether the current priest sex-scandals will create a better atmosphere for her lawsuit.

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On 2002-MAY-22, Susan Rockwell, a lawyer, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Concord NH, against the Roman Catholic dioceses of Manchester and Boston. She claims that the church's refusal to consider women for ordination to the priesthood violates her right to free expression and religion. The suit asks that the church's tax exempt status be revoked, and that the IRS be barred from renewing it until the church agrees to ordain women.

The lawsuit reads, in part: ''It is well established in federal case law that religious entities who discriminate against the civil rights of individuals must forfeit their preferential tax status, even when the discriminatory practice is based on 'sincerely held religious belief' if it violates civil rights, public policy, the social norm and the community conscience.'' In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the cancellation of the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University in Greenville SC, because of its long-standing ban on inter-racial dating.

She commented: ''They are not going to stop until it really hits them in the pocketbook. If they have to choose between women priests or tax exempt status, they will suddenly decide they got a revelation that women should be priests.'' There is a precedent for this suggestion. When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was faced with the loss of its tax-exempt status because of racism, they announced a revelation from God that said that ordination of African-Americans into the priesthood would be allowed.

The implications of this lawsuit are vast. If Rockwell wins her case, the LDS church, the Southern Baptist Convention and many other conservative Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups could also lose their tax-exempt status. 1

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  1. Lawrence Morahan, "Vatican Lawsuit Liability Could Reach $1 Billion in US,", 2002-MAY-22, at:

Copyright 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2002-MAY-23

Author: B.A. Robinson

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