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A Commiskey woman who lost her lawsuit to force a Catholic church near Hayden to install a headstone honoring her late husband’s love of sports and the outdoors is taking her case to the Indiana Court of Appeals.
The appeal seeks to overturn a summary judgment handed down Aug. 12 in the case of Shannon Carr v. Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis Properties Inc.
In his judgment, Special Judge K. Mark Loyd of Johnson County sided with the archdiocese that the First Amendment prohibits the court from taking indirect control over the conduct or the affairs of the church.
“The lawsuit requires the court to interpret decisions by the Roman Catholic Church as to the religious nature of monuments placed on ground deemed sacred by religious doctrine,” Loyd wrote in his judgment. “Such a dispute would lead the court into excessive entanglement into the church’s politics and doctrine.”
The church itself, as well as the Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law, are the only entities with legal jurisdiction in the dispute, according to Loyd.
Canon 1210 states: “Only those things which serve the exercise or promotion of worship, piety and religion are to be admitted into a sacred place. Anything that is not in accord with the holiness of the place is forbidden.”
Records show the appeal, filed by Seymour attorney Greg Morin on Carr’s behalf, was received by the Indianapolis-based appeals court Oct. 2. A date has not been set when the judges will consider the appeal.
The $9,000 black granite headstone for Jason Carr, who died in a 2009 automobile accident and is buried at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, is shaped like a couch and features images of a deer, a dog and color logos of NASCAR and the Indianapolis Colts.
The Rev. Jonathan Meyer, a priest who heads three Jennings County parishes including St. Joseph, said members of the church council were shown photos of the monument before Carr purchased it and that they told her the secular headstone was not acceptable.
The monument makers also were informed the headstone didn’t meet church standards and could not be placed in the Four Corners cemetery, Meyer said.
But Carr contends the church never produced any regulations for the plot until after she tried to have the headstone installed in 2010, according to court records.
A motion by Carr’s attorney to move the case from Vernon to Columbus was filed last December, along with the lawsuit. Loyd was named special judge after Bartholomew Circuit Judge Steve Heimann stepped down, due to the fact that he attends a Catholic church.
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