Court Rejects Lawsuit From Teacher Fired by Archdiocese

Joshua Payne-Elliott was dismissed for being in a same-sex marriage
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 10, 2019 4:48 PM CDT
Updated Aug 31, 2022 6:23 PM CDT
Teacher Fired for Same-Sex Marriage Sues Archdiocese
In this June 13, 2017 file photo, Bishop Charles Thompson speaks after he is introduced as the new archbishop of Indianapolis in Indianapolis.   (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

(Newser) Update: The Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against a teacher trying to sue the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis over his dismissal for being in a same-sex marriage. The ruling says religious institutions have a First Amendment right to decide church issues, the AP reports. "We fear for the well-being of LGBTQ students and faculty in Catholic schools," said the teacher, Joshua Payne-Elliott. Our story from July 2019 follows:

A Catholic high school teacher who was fired because he's in a same-sex marriage sued the Archdiocese of Indianapolis on Wednesday, accusing it of discrimination and interfering with his teaching contract. Joshua Payne-Elliott is suing the archdiocese in Marion County court and seeking unspecified compensatory, emotional distress, and other damages, the AP reports. Payne-Elliott taught at Cathedral High School for 13 years and Cathedral renewed his annual teaching contract on May 21, his attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, said in a news release. But on June 23, Cathedral's president told him he was being fired on the orders of the archdiocese. Payne-Elliott also has filed discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming the archdiocese discriminated against him on the basis of his sexual orientation and retaliated against him for opposing sexual orientation discrimination, the news release said.

"We intend to hold the Archdiocese accountable for violations of state and federal law," DeLaney said. Payne-Elliott in 2017 married Layton Payne-Elliott, who teaches at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. The archdiocese ordered Brebeuf to fire Layton Payne-Elliot, but the school refused, DeLaney said. As a result, the archdiocese said it no longer recognizes Brebeuf as a Catholic institution, though Brebeuf still identifies itself as an independent Catholic school. Speaking for his family, Joshua Payne-Elliott said, "We hope that this case will put a stop to the targeting of LGBTQ employees and their families." The archdiocese said in a statement that the US Constitution allows religious organizations to define what conduct is unacceptable for employees. DeLaney on Tuesday said Joshua Payne-Elliott had reached a settlement with Cathedral in which the school will help him with future employment options. It wasn't clear whether a monetary settlement was included.

(Read more Catholic Church stories.)

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