The Texas bishops released more than 4,000 pages of external communications on abortion, but applied for emergency relief to preserve their private correspondence.
In July 2018, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled the trial court’s application of the subpoena, and the full court declined to hear the case in August. Whole Women’s Health then applied to the Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal on Tuesday.
In the Fifth Circuit Court’s decision, the judges described the subpoena as going “to the heart of the constitutional protection of religious belief and practice as well as citizens’ right to advocate sensitive policies in the public square.”
The court said that the Catholic bishops were left with a “Hobson’s choice” of either “retreating from the public square or defending its position.”
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Texas bishops in the case, released a statement praising the outcome.
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Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket said in the statement that the court “saw this appeal for what it was: a nasty attempt to intimidate the bishops and force them to withdraw their offer to bury every child aborted in Texas.”
“Abortion groups may think the bishops ‘troublesome,’ but it is wrong to weaponize the law to stop the bishops from standing up for their beliefs,” he said.
In an earlier comment on the Fifth Circuit’s decision, Rassbach noted that “Constant surveillance of religious groups is a hallmark of totalitarian societies, not a free people.”