Given the new understanding of “sex,” both civil rights law and penal law “impose significant burdens on Sacred Heart and pressure it to change how it operates its school, how it manages employment decisions, and how it communicates its Catholic faith,” the lawsuit says.
Attorneys in the case said parental participation is important because their First Amendment rights are at risk if they cannot choose a school that aligns with their religious beliefs.
“The parents we represent in this case specifically opted out of public schools and instead chose to send their children to Sacred Heart Academy so that they could grow academically and spiritually in the Catholic faith,” said Anderson, one of the attorneys in the case. “Every parent has the right to make the best education decision for their children, and the government can’t deprive parents of that fundamental freedom.”
The lawsuit says Sacred Heart Academy has had students who experience gender discordance or same-sex attraction.
“Sacred Heart always ministers to all students with sensitivity, compassion, and charity. Due to its commitment to student flourishing, personal fulfillment, and spiritual growth, Sacred Heart will not adopt policies, permit behavior, or communicate messages that are inconsistent with the Catholic faith and its doctrine,” the lawsuit continues.
Provisions of the law include “publication bans,” which prevent covered entities from “making public communications contrary to the law’s values,” the lawsuit says.
The reinterpretation of the law has interfered with the school’s ability to hire an art teacher and an athletic coach. This is because advertising the positions and their required Catholic values violates the new understanding of the law.
Another Catholic parish also suing
A similar Dec. 5 lawsuit was filed by St. Joseph’s Parish, the only Catholic parish in the town of St. Johns, about 30 miles north of Lansing. The parish, which operates an elementary school, said the redefinition of anti-discrimination law threatens the school’s ability to advertise for and hire employees who model the teachings of the Catholic Church. It voiced concern about liability for alleged sex discrimination if it bars a male student from using a female locker room or from playing on a female sports team. The parish is concerned about liability if a male church visitor tries to use the female restroom or if a couple seeks to hold a same-sex marriage ceremony at the church.
The parish seeks an injunction to bar the state from enforcing the anti-discrimination law in a way that violates the parish’s religious autonomy rights.
Bishop Earl Boyea of Lansing expressed his full support for the parish in a Dec. 6 statement.
(Story continues below)
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Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.