Washington D.C., Sep 30, 2019 / 11:30 am
The Justice Department (DOJ) said on Friday that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis is protected by the First Amendment in its request that a Catholic school dismiss a teacher for publicly violating Church teaching after he entered a same-sex marriage.
“The United States has a substantial interest in religious liberty,” the DOJ said in a statement regarding a lawsuit filed by a former teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis who was dismissed this summer after he contracted a same-sex marriage.
The statement of interest, released Sept. 27, said that “religious employers are entitled to employ only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent with the employers’ religious precepts, and, more broadly, that the United States Constitution bars the government from interfering with the autonomy of a religious organization.”
In 2017, Archbishop Charles Thompson of Indianapolis requested that Cathedral High School and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School not renew the contracts of two male teachers who had entered a same-sex marriage in 2017.
Brebeuf Jesuit resisted the order and Thompson subsequently withdrew the school’s ability to call itself “Catholic” and said that the archdiocese would no longer recognize the school as Catholic. That case is now being considered on appeal at the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome.
Cathedral High School complied with the archbishop’s request and terminated the contract of social studies teacher Joshua Payne-Elliott.
Following his dismissal, Elliott sued the archdiocese in a county court for wrongfully interfering in his contract with Cathedral Catholic; the lawsuit ultimately prompted the DOJ’s intervention on Friday.
The DOJ statement said that the archdiocese’s decision to apply the teachings of the Church on sexual morality and marriage in Catholic schools is legally protected under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause.