Crystal Lake priest wants lawsuit thrown out

Published11/14/2007 12:31 AM

An Algonquin man's lawsuit against his parish priest over a disparaging homily should be thrown out of court for violating the separation between church and state, the priest's attorney says in a motion to dismiss the case.

The suit against the Rev. Luis Alfredo Rios of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Crystal Lake would require a court of law to sit in judgment over a religious ceremony, something the U.S. Supreme Court and courts across Illinois repeatedly have refused to do on First Amendment grounds, the motion argues.


"Where a court endeavors to approve, disapprove, classify, regulate or in any manner control either sermons delivered in a religious meeting or the (ecclesiastical) operation and management of a church, the very foundation of the wall between church and state crumbles," Rios attorney Gregory Snyder states.

The motion to dismiss is the first formal response from Rios and co-defendants Monsignor Daniel Hermes and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockford to the lawsuit filed in September by St. Thomas parishioner Angel Llavona.

Llavona attorney Dennis Favaro declined comment Tuesday.

The suit stems from an October 2006 homily Llavona claims caused him severe emotional distress and impugned his reputation as a good Catholic. The suit seeks at least $50,000 from each defendant as well as undisclosed punitive damages.

The defaming remarks, according to the lawsuit, came five days after Llavona left Rios a telephone message criticizing his sermon from the prior Sunday, saying it "broke all records" for poor homilies.

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The following Sunday, the suit states, Rios played the message during Mass and then criticized Llavona's work in St. Thomas' religious education program.

"This is the person in charge of religious education here last year," Rios said, according to the suit. "That's why it is no surprise to me we had the kind of religious education we had. That's why we didn't get any altar boys.

"What should we do, send him to hell or another parish?" Rios added, according to the suit.

Rios repeated his actions during a Mass later that day, the suit states.

McHenry County Judge Maureen McIntyre is scheduled to hear arguments on the motion to dismiss Jan. 8.

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