A Seoul appellate court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former priest who claims Catholic authorities wrongfully stripped him of his religious status and pay.
The Seoul High Court ruled that courts could not interfere in church affairs as the Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state.
The former priest, only identified by his surname, Kim, initially filed the lawsuit against the Samsungsan Cathedral in 2012 after he lost his priesthood and pay.
Catholic officials suspended Kim after he allegedly embezzled cathedral funds in 2005. They defrocked Kim after he filed civil suits against cathedral authorities in protest.
Friday’s ruling repeated a Supreme Court precedent in 1992 that said disciplinary church actions cannot be legally reinterpreted.
“Our Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion and strictly separates the church and state. The freedom of managing and organizing religious councils must be provided for to the utmost,” judges said.
Kim’s case was dismissed at the Seoul District Court on similar grounds. Whether Kim will appeal his case to the Supreme Court is unclear, according to a court official.
In a separate legal battle, Kim is facing criminal charges for his reported misappropriation of cathedral funds. Prosecutors have indicted him of stealing up to 76 million won ($74,300).
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org)