The Adorers of the Blood of Christ, U.S. Region, are profoundly disappointed that the United States Supreme Court decided not to grant the Adorers’ petition for certiorari. The Adorers asked the High Court to review a decision of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and Transcontinental Gas Pipeline Company, a private for-profit gas company, could violate in perpetuity the Adorers’ deeply held religious beliefs. At issue was FERC’s decision to authorize the private gas pipeline company to use the Adorers’ own private property, over their strong objections, to construct a high-volume gas pipeline in violation of the Adorers’ deeply held religious beliefs and practices. The Adorers filed a lawsuit in opposition to FERC’s and Transco’s actions under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a federal law that prohibits the government from substantially burdening individuals’ free exercise of religion.
The Adorers are a dedicated congregation of religious women who follow Laudato Si, the encyclical letter of Pope Francis. This encyclical letter presents a comprehensive theological basis establishing the sacredness of the earth as a gift from God—a gift that is to be cherished and protected for future generations. The Adorers believe they, and all Christians, are called to protect and care for earth and its inhabitants. As a religious exercise, they have committed themselves to fight climate change, including using their own property in an intentional manner that does not harm the earth.
FERC’s decision to authorize Transco to install and operate a 42” gas pipeline through the Adorers’ private property over their strenuous religious objections is an affront to the Adorers’ deeply held religious beliefs. The Adorers are appalled that the federal government and a multi-billion dollar private gas company can so blatantly violate one of the country’s most cherished freedoms without any repercussion or remedy.
Congress specifically adopted RFRA to prohibit the federal government from substantially burdening the religious rights of individuals. This protection applies to every action a federal agency takes. Congress could not have been clearer: RFRA applies over and above all other laws, unless explicitly exempted by Congress.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on February 19, 2019, not to review the Third Circuit’s decision leaves in place a dangerous precedent that allows provisions of the Natural Gas Act, a federal law on pipeline construction, to supersede the religious protections Congress guaranteed individuals under RFRA. The Third Circuit’s decision effectively permits federal executive agencies to violate individuals’ religious freedoms without oversight or review. In the Adorers’ case, the violation will occur every single day that billions of cubic feet of natural gas are flowing through their property.
The Adorers are reviewing their legal options at this time and will consider any available legal recourse that may still be available to them to try to address this miscarriage of justice.