- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis can fire parochial school teachers in gay marriages or who otherwise don’t live by church teachings, the state Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Wednesday.

Joshua Payne-Elliott, a social studies and world language teacher who had worked for 13 years at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, sued the archdiocese after being fired for entering a same-sex union. Mr. Payne-Elliott’s spouse, Layton Payne-Elliott, works as a math teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson ordered both schools to require their teachers “uphold Church teaching” to retain their Catholic affiliation. Brebeuf Jesuit refused and was removed from the archdiocese’s roster of schools, a move the Vatican later overruled.

Cathedral High fired Joshua Payne-Elliott, saying “the Archbishop directed that we can’t have someone with a public same-sex marriage here and remain Catholic.”

Mr. Payne-Elliott sued, and the archdiocese said it was protected because of “church autonomy” or the right of a religious organization to set the ecclesiastical terms under which it operates. 

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Geoffrey G. Slaughter, writing for the unanimous panel, said  the “Constitution encompasses the right of religious institutions to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government.”

Luke Goodrich, a vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the archdiocese, said in a statement: “Courts can’t decide what it means to be Catholic — only the Church can do that. 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.”

Kathleen DeLaney, a lawyer who represented Mr. Payne-Elliott in the case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Times.

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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