January 2021 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

An attempt by officials in West Virginia to sue a Roman Cath­olic diocese over sexual abuse allegations ran into a road­block in November due to a ruling by the state’s highest court.

The West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that Attorney General Patrick Morrisey could not use a consumer protection law to sue the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese for failing to disclose the employment of sex abusers in its schools and camps, reported the Associated Press.

The lawsuit asserted that the diocese failed to run background checks on more than 20 teachers at a Catholic elementary school in Charleston, and that it covered up a 2006 accusation of abuse against a teacher in Kanawha County.

Morrisey argued that the church’s failure to protect children amounted to a violation of state law, but the state Supreme Court majority ruled that the act cannot be applied to religious entities because it would “constitute an excessive entanglement of Church and State.” (State of West Virginia v. Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston)