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Federal court upholds Catholic school’s right to dismiss employee

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John Burger - published on 07/29/22 - updated on 07/29/22

Roncalli High School in Indianapolis did not have to employ counselor in same-sex relationship.

A federal court in Chicago Thursday ruled that a Catholic high school does not have to employ a woman in a same-sex relationship. 

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a lower court ruling that said that Roncalli High School in Indianapolis had the right to dismiss the woman, who had worked at the school for 40 years. The lower court cited a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said there is a “ministerial exception” to non-discrimination requirements. 

Lynn Starkey, who was a guidance counselor at Roncalli, first sued the school and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in 2019, a year after the school declined to renew her contract because she had entered into a “marriage” with another woman.

Upholding religious liberty

“The court ruled that the lawsuit must be dismissed, because the Constitution forbids the government from interfering with a religious school’s selection of who will pass on the faith to students,” said a statement from Becket, a religious liberty law firm that represented the school and archdiocese. 

“Religious groups have a constitutional right to hire individuals who believe in their faith’s ideals and are committed to their religious mission,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “Our justice system has consistently ruled that the government cannot intrude on a religious organization’s choice of who will pass on the faith to the next generation.” 

Both courts cited two Supreme Court cases, Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Evangelical School v. EEOC and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, which recognized the right of religious organizations to choose who will carry out their religious responsibilities.  

“Catholic schools are tasked by the Church to uphold the dignity of every human person and teach the fullness of the Catholic faith,” said Goodrich. “The Seventh Circuit’s decision ensures that religious schools can remain faithful to their mission.”

Tags:
EducationHomosexualityReligious Freedom
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