X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
A man expelled from a Roman Catholic seminary may move forward with his breach of implied contract claim in a lawsuit alleging that the school promoted “pro-gay and lesbian” literature in violation of authentic Roman Catholic doctrine. In partially rejecting a motion to dismiss submitted by the Diocese of Rockville Centre and other defendants, Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Anthony L. Parga determined that a suit filed by a former seminary student could proceed. However, the New York judge dismissed the plaintiff’s misrepresentation and negligence claims, finding that the First Amendment prohibited the court from interfering with causes of action grounded in a religious dispute. Justice Parga reasoned in Downey v. Schneider, 845-03, that subject matter jurisdiction over the cause of action for breach of implied warranty was not constitutionally barred, since the defendants thus far had made no evidentiary showing as to why plaintiff William J. Downey was expelled from the seminary of the Immaculate Conception allegedly without explanation. In his affidavit, Downey wrote that he was dismissed after he contacted Rev. William J. Murphy, bishop of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, about the nature and content of the seminary’s curriculum and teachings. He also said his dismissal occurred after he informed Rev. Murphy that he would “confront the issues publicly.” Specifically, Downey, whose affidavit said he was a former mergers and acquisitions consultant before entering the master’s program, alleged that the school promoted “pro-gay and lesbian books,” including “Religion is a Queer Thing.” He also contended that the word “pecker” was prominently displayed in his co-ed Introduction to the Bible course. His affidavit stated that he had earned nine of the required 13 courses for the degree and maintained a B+ average while in school. But the defendants, which included five priests, the diocese and the seminary, argued that Downey’s claims were “impossible” for the court to address without determining what constituted authentic Roman Catholic doctrine. Such a matter, the defendants asserted, was not subject to judicial review. In addition, the defendants argued that a judicial review of “purely academic determinations” such as Downey’s expulsion, was precluded by a decision from the Appellate Division, Second Department, in Carr v. St. John’s University, 17 AD2d 632 (1962). The court in Carr held that a university’s expulsion was not subject to judicial review if its decision was not arbitrary or capricious. “Similarly, in this case, the Seminary, a religious and educational institution operated by Roman Catholic priests, as a matter of law, should have the discretion to expel a student who challenges the curriculae on the basis of religious doctrine,” the defendant’s brief stated. But Justice Parga wrote that case law, including the decision in Carr, recognizes a contractual relationship between a student and a private college, and since the defendants “thus far” had made no evidentiary showing regarding its decision to expel Downey, he would allow the breach of implied contract to move forward. JURISDICTION LACKING As for Dowd’s misrepresentation and negligence claims, however, the judge held that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. “Plaintiff’s second and third causes of action cannot be decided solely upon the application of neutral principles of law, without reference to religious principles or doctrine, since he claims inter alia that the Seminary failed to teach authentic Roman Catholic theology,” he wrote. John F. Picciano of Picciano & Scahill in Garden City represented Downey. Spellman Walsh Rice Schure & Markus, also in Garden City, represented the defendants.

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.