Description: Lawsuit brought by a religious order and individual members seeking damages from a pipeline company for burdening their religious beliefs regarding the sacredness of God's creation by constructing a pipeline across the order's property.
Adorers of the Blood of Christ v. Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co.
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 10/13/2021 Notice of Appeal Download Notice of appeal filed by plaintiffs. 09/30/2021 Memorandum Opinion Download Motion to dismiss granted. Federal Court Again Dismissed Religious Order’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act Claims Against Pipeline Company. For a second time, the federal district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed an action brought by a vowed religious order of Roman Catholic women and individual members of the order against the developer of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The plaintiffs asserted that the pipeline—which was constructed across their property—“substantially burdened [their] exercise of their deeply-held religious beliefs to use and protect their land as part of God’s creation.” They cited a “Land Ethic” adopted by the order in 2005, as well as Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si. The federal court previously dismissed the plaintiffs’ earlier RFRA action, and the Third Circuit affirmed, on the grounds that the Natural Gas Act foreclosed judicial review of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) certificate in district court, and that the plaintiffs had foreclosed judicial review of their claims because they failed to bring them before FERC initially. In the instant case, the district court found that the fact that the plaintiffs were now seeking money damages instead of injunctive relief did not cure the jurisdictional defect. 11/11/2020 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Religious Order Sought Damages Under Religious Freedom Restoration Act from Pipeline Developer. A vowed religious order of Roman Catholic women and individual members of the order filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against the developer of the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline, which was constructed across the order’s property and put into service in 2018 “[o]ver the Sisters’ strenuous, sincere, and repeated protests.” The plaintiffs asserted that the developer’s condemnation of a right-of-way on their land and construction and operation of the pipeline “substantially burdened [their] exercise of their deeply-held religious beliefs to use and protect their land as part of God’s creation.” The complaint cited a “Land Ethic” adopted by the order in 2005 “proclaiming the sacredness of all creation according to their religious beliefs” as well as Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si, which the order’s complaint alleged “provides a comprehensive and exhaustive theological basis establishing that, as an act of religious belief and practice, members of the Roman Catholic Church, and others, must protect and preserve the Earth as God’s creation.” The complaint alleged that Pope Francis specifically identified climate change as a grave threat to humanity. The plaintiffs asserted a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and requested that the court award them compensatory and punitive damages.