Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2023 / 14:50 pm
A federal appeals court ruled that a Catholic school in Indiana is allowed to hold its leaders to moral religious standards after the institution refused to renew an employee’s contract because she violated Catholic teaching.
Roncalli High School, which is under the authority of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, refused to renew the contract of a guidance counselor named Michelle Fitzgerald because she entered into a homosexual civil marriage with another woman. The school argued that this violated both Catholic teaching and Fitzgerald’s contract with the school, which requires her and other employees to uphold the Catholic faith in word and in deed.
Although the court’s decision stated that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act “prohibits this kind of sex discrimination,” it found that Fitzgerald’s role as a guidance counselor at a Catholic school fell under the “ministerial exception.” This exception allows religious institutions, such as Catholic schools, to hold employees to religious moral standards if those employees are serving in a religious role or performing religious duties.
“Our precedent makes clear that Fitzgerald was a minister at Roncalli and that the ministerial exception bars this suit,” the court ruled.