Featured Image
Indiana State House, which houses the Indiana Supreme Court, Indianapolis, IndianaJonathan Weiss/Shutterstock

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (LifeSiteNews) – The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed Wednesday that Catholic high schools have a right to hire and fire teachers in accordance with the Church’s teachings.

The August 31 ruling came as part of a three-year battle over the firing of an openly homosexual male named Joshua Payne-Elliot who is “married” to another man. An earlier ruling from an appeals court found that his lawsuit could move forward.

Following a directive from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Cathedral High School fired Payne-Elliott in 2019 in order to remain in good standing with the Church and continue calling itself Catholic. Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, on the other hand, lost permission to call itself Catholic after it refused to follow the archdiocese’s orders and fire Payne-Elliot’s “husband.”

The court ruled against Payne-Elliott, who tried to argue that the archdiocese improperly interfered with his relationship with Cathedral High School. The court ruled that the archdiocese properly allowed the high school to decide to either use the Catholic moniker and fire the openly dissident teacher, or it could retain the teacher and forfeit its right to refer to itself as Catholic.

The archdiocese had the right to do this under the “church-autonomy doctrine,” which states that “a
civil court may not (1) penalize via tort law (2) a communication or coordination among church officials or members (3) on a matter of internal church policy or administration that (4) does not culminate in a criminal act.”

The use of the name “Catholic” is an example of a “matter of internal church policy,” according to Indiana’s highest court.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, hailed the ruling as a victory for religious freedom.

“Courts can’t decide what it means to be Catholic – only the Church can do that,” Luke Goodrich, a senior counsel and vice president of the nonprofit, stated in a news release. “By keeping the judiciary out of religious identity, the Indiana Supreme Court just protected all religious institutions to be free from government interference in deciding their core religious values.” 

“The court’s decision today was a common-sense ruling in favor of our most fundamental rights,” Goodrich stated. “Religious schools will only be able to pass down the faith to the next generation if they can freely receive guidance from their churches on what their faith is. We are grateful the court recognized this healthy form of separation of church and state.”

Payne-Elliott’s attorney Kathleen Delaney told the Washington Examiner that she is reviewing the possibility to refile a new complaint, which the Supreme Court allows. Her client criticized school choice programs in a statement provided to the media.

“We would also like the citizens of Indiana to know that millions of taxpayer dollars are being redirected each year from public schools (where teachers have enforceable contract rights and rights to be free from discrimination) to private schools which target LGBTQ employees,” he said in a statement. “We fear for the well-being of LGBTQ students and faculty in Catholic schools.”

Meanwhile, an elementary school administrator in Connecticut has been placed on leave after admitting during a covert interview that he would not hire Catholics or conservatives as part of an agenda to indoctrinate children with liberal values.

Cos Cob Elementary School assistant principal Jeremy Boland told an undercover Project Veritas reporter that Catholics are “brainwashed” and that they, along with teaching applicants above 30 years-of-age, are “stuck in their ways,” leading him to employ discriminatory tactics in hiring teachers.