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Abstract

This article examines whether the Free Exercise Clause or Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, or the judicial abstention doctrine, shields religious institutions from otherwise cognizable tort claims caused by their agents or employees. It concludes that the Constitution does not provide a religious institution with the right or privilege to operate as a law unto itself -- the institution must comply with the law of civil government. Part I provides a brief introduction and background on the First Amendment. Parts II, III, and IV analyze the Free Exercise Clause, judicial abstention doctrine, and the Establishment Clause, respectively, and how each operates in relation to sexual abuse claims against clergy.

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