Supreme Court’s dismissal of de Lange lawsuit

Diocese Statement on Mississippi Supreme Court’s June 16, 2022, Dismissal of De Lange’s Lawsuit 

On Oct. 2, 2019, Arie Matheus (Aad) de Lange filed a lawsuit against the Catholic Diocese of Jackson and Bishop Joseph Kopacz. The Diocese and Bishop Kopacz are pleased to confirm that on June 16, 2022, the Mississippi Supreme dismissed de Lange’s lawsuit and awarded the Diocese and Bishop Kopacz their costs of appeal.  

In his pleadings de Lange levied many baseless claims against the Diocese and Bishop Kopacz relating to his employment. At trial, the Diocese and Bishop Kopacz were prepared to respond to the pleadings filed by de Lange and prove that during his tenure the Diocese suffered from:  

(1) A weakened financial and administrative condition; 
(2) Internal accounting deficiencies as identified by third party financial audits of the Diocese;
(3) A large unexpected $900,000 financial deficit for fiscal year 2018-19; and 
(4) A lack of leadership communication and collaboration between the Office of Finance and Administration (De Lange’s department) and diocesan leadership including but not limited to the Bishop and the Diocesan Finance Council.  

The Diocese and Bishop Kopacz filed a motion to dismiss de Lange’s lawsuit based upon the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The motion sought dismissal because de Lange was asking the courts of Mississippi to interpret the application of Canon law (church law) to the facts surrounding de Lange’s termination of employment. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted the motion and dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that the First Amendment deprives civil courts of jurisdiction over claims which would require excessive entanglement in church employment decisions finding that “the Diocese’s decision to terminate de Lange pursuant to [church law] is binding on the civil court, and this Court must accept that decision.”   

The Diocese and Bishop Kopacz are grateful that the Supreme Court recognized the serious constitutional concerns raised by de Lange’s lawsuit and his challenge to the Diocese’s decision to terminate his employment. Bishop Kopacz made the following statement: “We rejoice in the unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Mississippi. We pray that the Court is ever mindful of the constitutional religious rights of religious institutions. We thank the Court for its decision and its guidance.” 


Click here for pdf of Diocese statement

For full text of Supreme Court decision click here

Bishop Kopacz releases statement on court actions on HB1523, abortion

“We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together.”

This introductory paragraph to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ statement on religious liberty encapsulates the struggle of all Americans with deeply held religious beliefs.

Both the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear an appeal regarding abortion laws and the blanket rejection of HB1523 vividly represent the current struggle for religious freedom in America. People of faith are called to be active in the political process – to protect the dignity of each human being and to make our communities stronger overall.

While we are disappointed that a Federal Judge has blocked the entire religious liberty law passed this year in Mississippi, we are glad the law has opened a dialogue about the tension between religious belief and civil law. The Catholic Church in Mississippi will continue to seek exemption in the specific areas of marriage and employment in certain ministries while engaging in respectful dialogue with our neighbors.

We are saddened at this country’s insistence on abortion, the destruction of innocent lives, and the laws that have been passed to support this continued destruction. The laws requiring doctors to have admitting privileges, although seen as a roadblock for abortion facilities, are in reality a commitment to the good health of all. Especially when a crisis happens and a woman who has undergone an abortion needs other medical attention. Presently they must go to the nearest emergency room and be treated by the next available emergency doctor.

The church will continue to work and pray for an end to abortion while supporting those in crisis pregnancy through ministries such as Birthright and Rachel’s Vineyard.

We must strike a just balance between church and state, not just for our own protection, but for the protection of other faiths and society as a whole. The USCCB document continues, “This is not a Catholic issue. This is not a Jewish issue. This is not an Orthodox, Mormon, or Muslim issue. It is an American issue.” Once the state begins to limit the rights of people of one faith, we must be concerned for people of all faiths and beliefs.

The Catholic Church welcomes everyone in our parishes, schools and service centers. We have and will continue to help anyone in need through Catholic Charities, schools and parish ministries, regardless of your faith, beliefs or background. And we will continue to raise our voices both in our churches and in our communities in defense of human dignity and justice.

+Bishop Joseph Kopacz
Catholic Diocese of Jackson

Additional resources: USCCB document Our Most Cherished Liberty; Previous statement on HB1523BirthrightRachel’s Vineyard; Catholic Charities of Jackson

Media Contact:
Maureen Smith
Director of Communications
Catholic Diocese of Jackson
601-969-3581 (office)
251-753-6917 (cell)