Bollard vs. California Province of the Society of Jesus

July 18, 1999

Source: St. Petersburg Times

On July 18, 1999, the St. Petersburg Times published an article on a court case, Bollard vs. California Province of the Society of Jesus, that presents a difficult church-state problem. John Bollard, who was training for the Jesuit priesthood and teaching at St. Ignatius College Preparatory School in San Francisco and then at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley from 1989 to 1996, claims that two priests "who could control his fate within the church would send him pornographic cards of sexually aroused men." Bollard, who also claims to have been propositioned by a third priest, approached a Jesuit leader about the problem, but was rebuffed when the leader replied, "no whining." Bollard elected to quit the priesthood and bring suit against the Society of Jesus for monetary damages. Initially, the case was dismissed in California U.S. District Court by Judge Susan Illston, who wrote: "The court would certainly become entangled in the religious realm if it were to address the extent to which (Bollard) could be 'made whole' from loss of a life of spiritual service or the proper compensation for the 'emotional pain' one suffers from this deprivation." Currently, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewing the case, trying to decide if a church can be liable for sexual harassment of its clergy or if the freedom of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment prevents the law from getting involved. The law that covers sexual harassment, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, usually is not applied to clergy due to a "ministerial exception," which prevents the courts from reviewing the hiring, firing, or promotion decisions regarding clergy.

See also: Christianity, Civic