"As role models for students, the personal conduct of every school guidance counselor, teacher, administrator, and staff member, both at school and away from school, must convey and be supportive of the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the description stated.
Furthermore, Starkey was part of the school’s administrative council, and thus “one of a select group of school leaders responsible for guiding Roncalli in its mission.”
Judge Young concluded that “it is apparent that the ministerial exception covers Starkey's role as Co-Director of Guidance.”
The Indianapolis archdiocese has faced several lawsuits by former employees of Catholic schools fired for entering into same-sex marriage contracts.
Starkey’s former co-director of guidance at Roncalli, Shelley Fitzgerald, was placed on administrative leave by the school in 2018 for her same-sex marriage contract; her employment with the school was not renewed in 2019, and she later sued the archdiocese.
Kelley Fisher, who had worked as a social worker at Roncalli for 15 years, lost her job in 2019 after she publicly defended Fitzgerald and Starkey. She filed a discrimination complaint against the archdiocese later that year.
Two Catholic school teachers in the archdiocese also entered into a same-sex marriage contract with each other in 2017. One of them, Joshua Payne-Elliott, was fired from Cathedral High School, while the other, Layton Payne-Elliott, was retained by Brebeuf Jesuit High School. Joshua Payne-Elliott sued the archdiocese, but lost his case at the Indiana supreme court in May.
Archbishop Charles C. Thompson of Indianapolis revoked the Catholic status of Brebeuf Jesuit, after it refused to fire Layton Payne-Elliott for his same-sex marriage contract. The school subsequently appealed to the Vatican.
This article was updated on August 11.
Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.