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The outcome of a recent court case, in which parents had taken a local school to court for refusing to re-enroll their children, signifies a victory for both Catholic schools and for religious freedom.
“The court does not have the authority to meddle in this decision,” Superior Court Judge Donald A. Kessler said in his ruling on the case in which St. Theresa’s School in Kenilworth, New Jersey, denied the parents’ applications for thirteen-year-old Sydney Phillips and her younger sister, Kaitlyn, to return to classes. Judge Kessler said the girls’ father, Scott Phillips, and their mother, Theresa Mullen, who had sought an order compelling the school and the Archdiocese of Newark to accept the girls, had “cited no law that would allow the court to interfere with the ecclesiastical (or religious) decision” denying the girls’ application.
Judge - Kessler - Decision - Bench - Parents
Judge Kessler, reading his three-hour-long decision from the bench, criticized the parents for disrupting the school community and vindicated school administrators for taking steps “to control the atmosphere that Mr. Phillips and Ms. Mullen created.” The daughters were not re-enrolled, Judge Kessler said, because of the parents’ conduct.
Christopher Westrick, the attorney representing the school and the archdiocese, was pleased with the decision, citing that it had “upheld our First Amendment rights.”
Court - Decision - First - Amendment - Institutions
It is true that the court’s decision was rooted in the First Amendment, which protects religious institutions from government interference in their internal affairs, but, from a Catholic perspective, it also conforms to the principle of subsidiarity, as enshrined in a series of papal encyclicals, including Rerum Novarum by Leo XIII (1891), Quadragesimo Anno by Pius XI (1931), Centesimus Annus by St. John Paul II (1991), and Caritas in Veritate by Benedict XVI (2009). In essence, and in its broadest applicable sense, the principle of subsidiarity can be said to have originated with the words of...
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