Tuesday, January 15, 2013

1st Amendment No Bar To Court Deciding Claim on Injury While Lighting Votive Candle

In Brady v. Star of the Sea Church Corporation of Unionville, Connecticut, 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3038 (CT Super. Ct., Dec. 14, 2012), a Connecticut trial court rejected a Catholic church's 1st Amendment defense to a damage claim against it by plaintiff who was injured while attempting to light a votive candle near the church's altar.  A loose kneeling pad in front of already lighted candles caused plaintiff to lurch forward and sustain injuries from her blouse being ignited. The court rejected the church's argument that placement of the kneeling pads and candles are a matter within its discretion in interpreting religious law. The court instead held that "plaintiff's claims can be resolved by the court applying only neutral principles of law that do not intrude on religious decisions within the church sanctuary."