Sorry, no f-bombs. But, here’s a little tale courtesy of John Browning of The Southeast Texas Record:
Father Luis Alfredo Rios of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Crystal Lake, Ill., was sued for making a “wrongful sermon” by one of his parishioners, Angel Llarona. Llarona left two voicemail messages for Father Rios complaining about the quality of his sermonizing.
The next Sunday, Father Rios allegedly played the voicemails for the congregation, and commented on Llaroma’s effectiveness as someone in charge of religious education for the parish. The priest allegedly asked the congregants “what should we do, should we send him to hell or to another parish?” Now, Mr. Llarona wants at least $50,000.
Since the First Amendment precludes judges from inquiring into religious doctrine or belief, only a few courts have taken on such “wrongful sermon” cases.
In 2004, a New Mexico court rejected defamation claims against a priest who denounced the deceased at a funeral service. The judge wryly noted that churches have been “talking about sending people to hell for many a year. People aren’t shocked by it.”
The moral of the story: Don’t ever leave a voicemail you wouldn’t want the entire world to hear! How could you not know this? Alec Baldwin anyone?