Dismissed NFL suit cited in sexual abuse suit against church

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana court’s dismissal of a lawsuit against the NFL over officiating at a January playoff game now figures in a lawsuit against Catholic Church officials over alleged sexual abuse.

Lawyers for the Archdiocese of New Orleans are trying to end a 2018 lawsuit by a man who says he was abused by a former church deacon. Now, they are bolstering their arguments at Louisiana’s Supreme Court with that court’s recent dismissal of a lawsuit over the blown call that may have cost the Saints a shot at the Super Bowl.

The church’s filing, dated Tuesday and first reported by WVUE-TV, quotes from the Supreme Court’s Sept. 6 decision dismissing the suit filed by attorney and Saints fan Antonio LeMon. LeMon and three others sued the NFL for alleged fraud after officials failed to call blatant pass interference and roughness penalties during a key play in a Saints playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams.

“Just as it is ‘not the role of judges and juries to be second-guessing the decision taken by a professional sports league purportedly enforcing its own rules,’ it is certainly not the role of judges and juries to adjudicate whether or not a religious entity such as the Archdiocese has complied with its own rules, doctrines, or policies,” the filing says. “Moreover, the right of religious entities to govern themselves is guaranteed by both the United States and Louisiana Constitutions, while professional sports leagues have no similar constitutional protection.”

The case involves a victim identified as John Doe who says he was abused when he was a child by defrocked deacon George Brignac, now in his 80s. Brignac has denied improperly touching children. An independent review board at the archdiocese deemed at least one of multiple sexual abuse claims against Brignac to be “credible” in 2002.

The John Doe case is proceeding in state Civil District Court in New Orleans after the presiding judge and an appeals court refused to throw it out. The archdiocese is seeking to reverse those decisions at the Supreme Court.

In past court responses to church lawyers’ moves to dismiss the lawsuit, attorneys for John Doe have argued that constitutional protections for the church do not extend to matters involving child molestation. The attorneys responded to the latest filing in a Friday email.

“Even the most devout Saints fans and Catholics understand that there is a vast difference between grown men of the cloth raping children, and a referee blowing a call in a game, and how each organization should deal with these issues,” the statement said.

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