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Judge rules in favor of Milwaukee Archdiocese regarding cemetery trust funds Print E-mail
State News
Wednesday, Jul. 31, 2013 -- 9:29 AM

MILWAUKEE -- An important decision on the separation of church and state was issued July 30, 2013, by United States District Court Judge Rudolph Randa. Randa ruled that the decades old practice of putting a portion of the money received from cemetery lot and mausoleum sales into trust for the perpetual care of those cemetery sites could not be undone for the benefit of claimants in bankruptcy proceedings.

Because these funds were held in trust as prescribed by Canon Law, they were independent of the general assets and could only be used for their intended and pledged purpose -- to care for the resting places of the departed as sacred places under Canon law. As the judge said, “removing some or all of these funds from the trust and placing them in the bankruptcy estate would undoubtedly put “substantial pressure” on Archbishop [Jerome] Listecki to “modify [his] behavior” and “violate [his] beliefs”.

In ruling that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment of the Constitution prevent the appropriation of cemetery trust funds, Judge Randa decided that actions and requirements of the federal government must not substantially burden the free exercise of religion. While this decision confirms how cemetery trust funds must be used, it could have far reaching impact on how the federal government must respect religious practices.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee recognizes the hurt and pain of abuse survivors and Judge Randa’s decision does not change the archdiocese’s commitment to providing resources to help heal their pain. Going forward, the archdiocese will develop a plan of reorganization that allows the archdiocese to continue providing the essential ministries and services to parishioners, parishes, schools, charities, and others who rely upon the Church for assistance.

 
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