U.S. Third Circuit - The FindLaw 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court: No Religious Reason Around Administrative Process

For the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, it will take more than a prayer to stop a natural gas pipeline.

Not even a lawsuit helped the sisters of the Roman Catholic organization who sued to stop the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline. In Adorers of Blood of Christ v. FERC, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said they should have objected during administrative proceedings first.

The sisters sued on religious freedom grounds, but the appeals court washed its hands of the case. Their only chance now will be a petition to God or the U.S. Supreme Court.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

In his five-minute podcast, FindLaw's Jeremy Conrad reviewed the decision along with other recent cases in the news. This episode, which looked at the claim under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was called "Guns and Nuns."

"The Adorers objected because they claimed deeply held religious beliefs that required they care for the land in a manner that protects and preserves the earth as God's creation," he said.

A trial court dismissed the case, however, because the sisters' religious claims did not excuse them from following administrative procedure.

"If the Adorers had participated in the administrative process, FERC may have denied or modified the conditions of Transco's certificate," the Third Circuit said in affirming. "Or, if FERC failed to do so, the reviewing court of appeals may have ruled in the Adorers' favor."

"Faith" Will Prevail

The Adorers said the federal courts historically have been "stalwart protectors and defenders of religious freedoms," but this time they "sided with power, gas and oil."

"Thus, even though the Adorers are up against a powerful federal agency and a massive oil and gas industry with unlimited resources, the Adorers believe that their faith and religious beliefs will ultimately prevail," the group said. "At issue is nothing less than the future of our sacred earth."

Absent intervention from a higher power, the 200-mile pipeline will go through farmland the Adorers leased last fall. Construction is ongoing.

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