Posted by on November 23, 2021 5:02 pm
Categories: News Washington Examiner

Indiana appeals court rules in favor of gay teacher fired by Catholic school

Students enter Our Lady of Hungary catholic school in South Bend, Ind., for the first day of school August 17, 2011. (AP File) Joe Raymond

Indiana appeals court rules in favor of gay teacher fired by Catholic school

Christopher Hutton November 23, 04:29 PMNovember 23, 04:29 PM

An Indiana court ruled that local courts have to consider a case involving a gay teacher fired by a Catholic school.

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Marion County’s Superior Court was wrong to dismiss Joshua Payne-Elliott’s lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The reversal from the Court of Appeals means the case will be sent back to the lower court for consideration.

“The trial court erred in granting the Archdiocese’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,” the court wrote in the ruling. It then reversed the dismissal, forcing Marion County’s court to consider the case on its merits.


Legal representation for the Archdiocese expressed optimism they’d prevail in the final ruling.

“The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the constitutional right of Catholic schools to hire teachers who fully support the schools’ Catholic mission,” Luke Goodrich, VP & senior counsel at Becket, which is representing the Archdiocese in court, told the Washington Examiner. “Today’s ruling doesn’t address this core issue, and we’re confident that when the courts finally do, they will respect this fundamental right. If the First Amendment means anything, it means the Catholic Church can ask Catholic school teachers to support Church teaching.”

Payne-Elliot’s lawsuit alleges the Archdiocese interfered with his contract and employment status since his contract was with the school, not the church. He’s seeking “compensation for lost earnings and benefits, as well as emotional distress,” according to the Washington Post.

The teacher was fired in June 2019 after the Archdiocese mandated that all Catholic schools enforce a morality clause prohibiting employees from entering into same-sex marriages.

Payne-Elliot had worked as a world language and social studies teacher at Cathedral High School since 2006. He married Layton Payne-Elliot, a fellow teacher from Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, in 2017.

The couple was the center of several conflicts within the Archdiocese. When the Archdiocese ordered Brebeuf to fire Layton, it did not comply. The Archdiocese then attempted to strip Brebeuf of its status as a Catholic institution.

Payne-Elliot filed the lawsuit in June 2019, only for it to be dismissed in May 2021. The Archdiocese argued the First Amendment barred the lawsuit, claiming secular courts are prohibited from interfering in internal church matters.


The Court of Appeals found that the lower court did have jurisdiction to hear that case and that it was too early in the process to be dismissed.

Legal representatives for Payne-Elliot did not respond to requests for comment by the Washington Examiner.

© 2021 Washington Examiner

Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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