Lawyers for the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, U.S. Region, a congregation of Catholic Sisters, will argue their case at 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, before a three-judge panel in the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, in a religious freedom lawsuit they have filed against Williams/Transco Pipeline and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

The pipeline company is using eminent domain to force a fossil fuel pipeline through farmland the Sisters own in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Adorers have a deep and longstanding commitment to safeguard the sanctity of the Earth. They actively seek to reduce reliance on climate-destroying fossil fuels, and strongly oppose environmentally destructive practices such as hydraulic fracturing. As such, the forced installation of a fossil fuel project on their own land represents a gross violation of their deeply held religious convictions.

These arguments will be used to determine whether the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania appropriately dismissed the Sisters’ religious freedom challenge in 2017 for lack of jurisdiction to hear the case. If the three-judge appeals panel rules in favor of the Adorers on this jurisdictional matter, the case would be remanded to the District Court for consideration on the merits of their religious freedom challenge, which the Sisters believe to be clear and well-founded.

The Sisters will hold a press conference immediately following Friday’s arguments in the Kirby Auditorium of the National Constitution Center, located at 525 Arch Street, just one block from the courthouse. The media and the public are welcome to attend both the oral arguments and the press conference.


Background

The Adorers are an international community of Roman Catholic women founded in Italy in 1834. They came to the United States in 1870, establishing their ministry in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1925. They’ve maintained an active ministry there ever since.

The Adorers adhere to a “Land Ethic” that the order adopted in 2005, which proclaims, in part: “As Adorers, we honor the sacredness of all creation. … As prophets, we reverence Earth as a sanctuary where all life is protected; we strive to establish justice and right relationships so that all creation may thrive. …” As a matter of religious practice and belief, the Adorers intentionally use their land in a manner that does not harm the Earth.

The Adorers have a long history of defending the environment as a matter of religious principle. Furthermore, the 2015 encyclical of Pope Francis entitled, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, places environmental stewardship squarely within the Roman Catholic theological tradition.

For these reasons, the Adorers, for the past three years, have resisted plans by Williams/Transco to install a high-volume, fracked gas pipeline on their rural, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania property that would facilitate climate change and harm the Earth, in direct contravention of their religious beliefs. Despite the Adorers’ steadfast refusal to sign an easement through their land, Williams ignored their religious objections and proceeded with plans to run the pipeline through their property. Williams then condemned the Adorers’ property in order to force the Adorers to use their own land for Williams’ pipeline.

In July 2017, the Sisters filed a civil rights challenge against both the pipeline company and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, invoking the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Adorers’ claim argues that installation of a fossil fuel pipeline on their own property, against their will, constitutes a violation of their deeply held religious convictions with respect to the sanctity of the Earth. After U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Schmehl ruled that Williams/Transco could seize the Sisters’ land by eminent domain, their pending religious freedom case notwithstanding, the Sisters sought an injunction against Williams until their case could be heard in court. That request was denied. Williams/Transco responded to the Sisters’ continued opposition to the pipeline by repeatedly threatening legal action, enforcement by the U.S. Marshals Service, and even incarceration if they dared to interfere with construction activity on their own land.

In fact, the company altered its construction schedule in order to begin pipeline installation on the Adorers’ land before every other right-of-way in Lancaster County in a bald attempt to insulate themselves against a future legal victory for the Sisters.

Williams/Transco’s legal briefs have dared to question the sincerity of the Sisters’ defense of the Earth, dismissing their professed convictions as a “subjective religious experience.”

Such profit-driven hostility toward religion is precisely why Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Sisters welcome supporters to attend Friday’s arguments, as well as a press conference they’ll hold immediately after the court proceedings.


Details:

Friday, Jan. 19, 2018 at 9 a.m.

James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse

19th Floor, Albert Branson Maris Courtroom

601 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19106

* Press Conference to Immediately Follow *

Kirby Auditorium, National Constitution Center

525 Arch Street, Philadelphia

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14 thoughts on “U.S. Court of Appeals Panel Will Hear Oral Arguments in Religious Freedom Case the Adorers Filed Against Pipeline Company and FERC”

  1. It is time to really think about people. MA (Elizabeth Warren country) and NY successfully stopped most pipeline construction like you are doing. This month they are paying over $100 per mcf for a shipment of LNG from Russia via England. USA natural gas still costs $3 via pipeline. This hurts families, and seniors who are paying the extra costs. Check out Boston Globe article. Russia has few environmental controls so they are hurting the planet. I’m sure this doesn’t hurt Elizabeth, Bernie, Hillary, Yoko or the Kennedys who can all afford it and will never feel the cold. Is this what people in VA MD NC & SC have to look forward to because of your actions if they will even have heat after you restrict natural gas. Wind and solar don’t work well on a coal dark winter night and a snow storm. I guess you can burn wood where you are which doesn’t help the environment. Christ made a point to feed the hungry not freeze and starve them like your actions will do. Please have the courage to do right by people.

    1. Rather than being preoccupied with your Republican Party agenda, you should be more concerned with the wellbeing of the families and their children living with a pressurized gas pipeline at their doorstep. Need verification, then research the Williams Pipeline explosion that occurred on September 14, 2008, at Appomattox, Virginia. The explosion ripped a 32 ft section of the pipe open. The pipeline spewed high pressure gas until it was ignited by a downed power line causing an 1100 ft. diameter burn zone. Damaging 100 homes, injuring 5 people, and costing over $3 Million dollars. Have the courage to protect our families not a gas pipeline intended to ship gas overseas.

      1. I would say the same thing about Republicans if they do the same thing. For over 30 years I have had a high pressure pipeline running by my house. We raised 3 kids here. The pipeline has been a good neighbor. That is where the deer eat and and my dog played for 14 years until she died of old age. It is 10 degrees outside and dark. We have lights, TV and heat. My wife has a breathing machine. Do you have a better idea to keep her alive and us warm?

        1. I wonder if the people living near the Williams Pipeline in Appomattox, Virginia said the same thing you do, right up until the point the high pressure pipeline exploded, destroying Homes and injuring families. By the way, Williams was fined for poor maintenance of the pipeline.

          1. When there is a problem it needs addressed. Cars, trains, planes and even horses have accidents that kill people. We haven’t stopped building them or shut them down. What is your alternative? When heat and power go off especially in winter people die.

  2. Managing risk is a part of life. We choose the amount of risk we are willing to accept, risk to ourselves and risk to our families. Nonetheless, we are in control, we decide if we place our families in the car, train, or plane. The Williams High Pressure Gas Pipeline is imposed on us, without allowing us free will to choose for our families. To have the right to protect your family, choose and manage the risk they face is a fundamental Freedom here in America. The Williams Pipeline forces risk to exist at our doorstep, a deadly accident waiting to happen that is imposed on us. The Williams Pipeline Corporation seizes our private property by virtue of eminent domain placing the well-being of our families in the hands of a corporation, no longer in the hands of those who care and love them.

      1. We have the infrastructure in place right now to supply you with the fossil fuels you require. The high pressure gas pipeline you are pleading for was never intended to supply the USA, it was intended to support export trade. I think it might be a good idea for you to research the strategic plan of the Williams Corporation because it doesn’t include you, or your lights, or your heat, or your breathing machine, sorry.

        1. I thought you were against pipelines in general. Before pipelines are built they must have end users so there are always the people at the end of the pipe to consider. NPR did a story almost 2 years ago on pollution in India particularly New Delhi. I was moved by it because I have children and grandchildren. The NPR story said that over half of school aged children in New Delhi have COPD, a horrible disease, because of air pollution. If those children had been starving we all would have gladly put money in a second collection at mass. But that never happened. These children were just going to die of COPD eventually. Sadly I never heard of anyone lifting a finger to help them. Our pastor is from India. A couple of months ago I asked him if he had ever been to New Delhi on his trips back home. He commented, “New Delhi has very dirty air.” He continued. “But it is getting cleaner.” I questioned. “What are the doing?” Fr. said, “They are using natural gas. (from America)” I know there is a risk with a pipeline in my back yard but it is carrying natural gas for people that need it. Even if I was next to that Williams pipeline, after what Christ did for me on the cross it would be worth the risk to know I was saving children’s lives.

          1. It appears your argument to justify the risk to our families intrinsic to an underground high pressure gas pipeline pipeline has failed, now you are trying to justify risk to our families by saying a pipeline in our backyard is economically advantages to India. Maybe Williams Corp. should build their pipeline in India and not impose risk of explosions on our children and families.

  3. Hardly. The pipeline next to me is over 40 years old. Modern pipelines have have high tech coatings and even better corrosion control. Far safer than my neighbor. India lacks natural gas. They burn a lot of coal causing pollution and the COPD of the children I told you about. American natural gas is starting to change that. It takes pipelines to get it to export terminals. You wouldn’t be willing to accept even a small risk to save the lives of children? So be it. Now that you know you can choose and live with your choice.

    1. Your reliance on India to justify a high pressure gas pipeline near our homes, schools, and parks is without merit or logic. In addition, your knowledge of the natural gas reserves of India is equally incorrect. At this moment, India is expanding its domestic natural gas production, as a matter of fact, in June and July of 2017, India increased its domestic gas production by 12%. So it’s not up to Pennsylvania to risk our families to “save the lives of the children of India”, rather, it is up to India to continue the development of their own natural gas reserves.

  4. I know India VERY well. They don’t have adequate gas reserves for their people. A 12% Increase of a small number isn’t much. They are not a world leader in gas production. I have worked with people from India on natural gas since 1984. That is why they burn coal. The Sisters are fighting this pipeline out of concern for the planet. US CO2 is down over 10%. India and China are still increasing CO2. Your risk is minimal. Gasoline is a higher risk. Sending our natural gas to places like India helps clean their air helping US. It is also the right thing to do to help the less fortunate. If you can only think of yourself and your own little part of the world we might as well end this conversation because you will won’t be able to understand. I will be happy to converse privately anytime. We all want clean air and clean water. Sometimes people differ on how to achieve. An understanding of energy and engineering is important. Ie most people don’t know that modern windmills, solar panels and electric cars can’t exist without fossil fuels. Truth and good science are essential as well as civil discourse.
    Thanks

  5. Again you have inaccurate information, apparently you don’t know India as well as you think. If India were to develope its untapped natural gas reserves they could generate in excess of $40 Billion in revenue.
    Now, what is your rational for allowing Williams Pipeline Corporation to seize our land by eminent domain, destroy our environment, and endangering our families, ALL to help supply India with natural gas when India only needs to develope their own untapped gas reserves.

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