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U.S. Court Stays Catholic Groups’ Contempt Fines

Associated Press

A federal appeals court agreed Wednesday to hear an expedited appeal from the nation’s two foremost Roman Catholic organizations and stayed a $100,000-a-day fine imposed on the groups.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Carter last week held the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference in contempt of court for refusing to turn over documents sought by abortion rights activists in a lawsuit challenging the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church.

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The Catholic organizations have refused to release the documents, calling the requests unduly broad, burdensome and an intrusion into church affairs.

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Carter fined each organization $50,000 a day but stayed the fines to allow time for appeal. The U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday extended the stay until the week of June 23, when a three-judge panel of the appeals court will hear the Catholic groups’ challenge to the lawsuit and the contempt fines. The exact date of the hearing will be set later.

A coalition of 29 abortion rights groups brought the suit against the Internal Revenue Service, contending that the Catholic Church has run afoul of federal law by supporting political candidates who oppose abortion over those who do not.


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