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HMH, P.A. Gains First Amendment Victory

HMH, P.A. Gains First Amendment Victory

In a case of first impression, an Arkansas Judge recently rejected the Diocese of Little Rock’s claim that the First Amendment prevents an adult parishioner from bringing a negligent claim against the Diocese where the victim was sexually exploited by her priest, Father Charles Kanu, during counseling sessions.

The Court ruled that religious organizations must be held to the same standard as all other employers and that the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment does not allow the Church to put parishioner’s in harms way.

Arkansas has a criminal statute making it a felony for counselors (including clergymen) and other professionals who are in a position of trust or authority to use that position to engage in sex.  The Court found that the criminal statute created an independent basis to create a duty of care.

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