The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the privacy rights of Texas bishops Thursday, affirming a ruling that an abortion group does not have a right to the bishops’ internal communications.
The court rejected the pro-abortion group Whole Woman’s Health’s July 30 request for a rehearing Thursday, upholding its previous decision that the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops is under no obligation to turn over its internal communications on topics of abortion.
The court pointed to “constitutional protection of religious belief” in its ruling and noted that the abortion group’s effort to obtain full access to the bishops’ internal affairs “looks like an act of intimidation.”
Thursday’s ruling comes after Whole Woman’s Health sued the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops in December 2016 over its support for a Texas law requiring abortion facilities to cremate or bury aborted babies. A federal court blocked the law from taking effect.
The bishops supported the Texas law and offered to provide free burials and cremations, The Catholic News Agency first reported Thursday. Whole Women’s Health filed a subpoena in March 2018 requesting access to all of the bishops’ communications about abortion.
The conference provided more than 4,000 pages of communications with outside parties, but refused to disclose its internal communications.
“The Fifth Circuit correctly protected the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, a non-party, from an overly broad demand by an abortion group for internal communications,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement, applauding the court’s initial ruling. “In making such an erroneous demand, abortion advocates succeeded only in demonstrating that they are willing to violate the Constitution to further their pro-abortion agenda.” (RELATED: Catholic Bishops Call For Investigation of Former Washington Archbishop)
Thursday’s ruling comes after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court released a grand jury report on Tuesday, detailing decades of child sexual abuse. The report, which spans 70 years of sexual misconduct and coverups by Catholic priests and officials, identified more than 1,000 child victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
The report also identifies more than 300 accused “predator priests” across six dioceses in the state.
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