Federal Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Texas Catholic Conference in Dispute with Abortion Group

This week the Fifth Circuit federal court of appeals permanently blocked a trial court order requiring the Texas Catholic Conference to disclose communications between its Executive Director and the Texas bishops.  The dispute arises out of a new Texas law that requires aborted fetuses to be buried or cremated rather than disposed of in a landfill or the sewer.

During the legislative process, the Texas Catholic Conference (TCC) testified in support of the bill, stating that the Catholic Church and Catholic cemeteries in Texas would be willing to offer burial space at no charge and religious services for those wanting them in support of the new law.  Lawyers for the abortion lobby then subpoenaed all communications between the TCC and the bishops (among other demands), served the subpoena during Holy week, and demanded responses be provided the Tuesday after Easter.

The TCC sought a protective order, stating that the subpoena violated its First Amendment freedoms of religion and association, and state and federal RFRA statutes.  The trial court denied the protective order, issuing the order on a Sunday(Father’s Day), and gave the TCC 24 hours to appeal!  The Fifth Circuit reversed the trial court’s order and ruled that the trial judge erred and abused his discretion.  In a concurring opinion, Judge James Ho stated that “[i]t is hard to imagine a better example of how far we have strayed from the text and original understanding of the Constitution than this case.”