Washington D.C., May 7, 2021 / 14:15 pm
The Indiana supreme court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, filed by a former Catholic school teacher fired for contracting a same-sex civil marriage.
Luke Goodrich, VP and senior counsel at Becket, which represents the archdiocese, said that the dismissal of the lawsuit was a “major victory” for religious liberty.
“If the First Amendment means anything, it means the government can’t punish the Catholic Church for asking Catholic educators to support Catholic teaching,” he said.
The lawsuit against the archdiocese was filed by Joshua Payne-Elliott, a former teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. In 2017, Payne-Elliott entered a same-sex civil marriage with another Catholic school teacher in the archdiocese, Layton Payne-Elliott.
According to Becket, the archdiocese for two years considered what action to take, before instructing both Cathedral and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, where Layton Payne-Elliott taught, that their employment could not continue. The civil marriage had violated Church teaching, the archdiocese said.
Brebeuf refused the archbishop’s request, and the archdiocese in response revoked the school’s “Catholic” status. That revocation is on hold, as the school appealed to the Vatican's Congregation for Catholic Education.
Cathedral High School, however, terminated Joshua Payne-Elliott’s contract in June 2019. After reaching a settlement with the school, he filed a lawsuit against the archdiocese in August 2019.
The archdiocese has the right to uphold Church teaching in its standards for employee conduct, Goodrich said on Friday.