CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, October 25, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — It’s a “scandal” for Catholic churches and schools to continue employing anyone who enters into a same-sex “marriage” or publicly announces plans to do so, Bishop Peter Jugis said, and the diocese would be “irreparably damaged” if it could not fire employees who flout Church teaching.
Jugis, the bishop of Charlotte, North Carolina, made his comments while deposed in a federal court case of a former diocesan school employee suing the school and the Diocese of Charlotte after his 2014 firing for announcing on Facebook he planned to “wed” his same-sex partner the following summer.
Lonnie Billard sued Charlotte Catholic High School, eight other Catholic schools in the district and the diocese earlier this year for allegedly discriminating against him because he is homosexual.
Billard had worked at Charlotte Catholic High School for 11 years before retiring in 2012, and then continued to work as a long-term substitute. The school notified him that he could not return for an assignment at the high school because of his plans to disobey Church teaching.
The diocese told LifeSiteNews in a statement at the time that “people who work for the Diocese of Charlotte agree that they will not oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church. We cannot and will not employ a substitute teacher who opposes Church teaching.”
Billard has said that most people at the school were aware of his relationship and his partner had often come to school events.
According to a report from The Charlotte Observer, Bishop Jugis said in his sworn deposition this past August that it was important for the Church to act when employees make their disagreement over “fundamental moral tenets” of the Catholic Church public.
What’s more, the bishop said, there would be “scandal” if the diocese did not officially respond to this “contradictory message” from an employee.
Bishop Jugis, a canon lawyer, defined scandal in this case as “where some behavior or action which is wrong offends an innocent person such that they would be led astray into thinking, if there was no response from some person in authority, that this activity was acceptable.”
Billard is claiming workplace discrimination, with his lawyers from the ACLU arguing that he is a teacher, not a minister, and that he should be protected by federal laws banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sex.
At the same time, the diocese is arguing for its religious freedom.
“When the Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right to same-sex marriage … it made clear that recognition of this new right would not end religious organizations’ ability to teach and practice the Christian view of human sexuality,” the diocese said in court papers filed earlier this month. “Billard asks the court to ignore this promise. Rather than recognizing defendants’ constitutional and statutory rights to practice their sincerely held religious beliefs, Billard asks the court to force defendants to employ persons who publicly oppose their message and mission.”
The case is one of many around the country in recent years where Catholic leaders have acted to preserve the Catholic identity in Church institutions by releasing employees who have publicly engaged in same-sex “marriages” or otherwise contravene Church teaching.
Bishop Jugis said in his testimony that when hired all employees of the Charlotte diocese agree “to respect, appreciate and uphold the teachings, principles, legislation, policies and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church in both word and deed.”
Diocesan policy states that “all employees of the diocese agree upon their employment to follow the diocese's ethics policy and a personnel policy that requires them to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”
Bishop Jugis has taken public stances in support of Church teaching in the past.
Last year, he rescinded an invitation for a singer to perform at a Catholic Charities benefit event after the bishop had seen her public admission to being in a same-sex “marriage.”
In 2015, Bishop Jugis stopped plans for a parish to host an LGBT-focused speech by Sister Jeannine Gramick — a dissident nun censured by both the US Bishops’ Conference and the Vatican over her continuous public contradiction of Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality.
In 2012, he supported North Carolina’s Amendment One upholding marriage as between one man and one woman.