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Indiana court delivers religious freedom victory to Catholic school

Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF

An Indiana court delivered a religious freedom victory Friday to a school in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, confirming the school’s right to ensure that staff promote an authentic Catholic education.

A former Catholic high school teacher, Joshua Payne-Elliott, sued the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in July 2019 in the case Payne-Elliot v. Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Payne-Elliot was fired from his position at Cathedral Catholic High School after he entered a same-sex civil union, violating his employment agreement with the Catholic school, according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the archdiocese.

“If the First Amendment means anything, it means the government can’t punish the Catholic Church for asking Catholic educators to support Catholic teaching,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket.

Though the trial court initially ruled that Payne-Elliot’s lawsuit could proceed, the Indiana Supreme Court sent the case back to the trial court for reconsideration. The Indiana Marion Superior Court threw out the entire case Friday.

“This has always been a very simple case, because the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed the freedom of religious schools to choose teachers who support their religious faith,” Goodrich said.

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