2013 has been the year of the fired LGBT church worker. We’ve been reporting on the plight of these unjustly dismissed people since the beginning of the year, when we let you know about the story of Mark Krolikowski (as he was then identified), a transgender teacher who was fired after 32 years of employment at St. Francis Preparatory H.S. in Queens, N.Y. Krolikowski, who now identifies as Marla Krolikowski, brought a legal case against the school.
The Huffington Post reported that Krolikowski won a legal victory in court this week:
“On Monday, a judge reportedly rejected the school’s motion to have the case thrown out and strongly suggested that the opposing parties settle the lawsuit.”
Judge Duane Hart was skeptical that Krolikowski’s gender transition did not factor into her firing, and that the school fired her simply for insubordination, as they claimed:
” ‘Insubordination after 32 years of teaching? And the insubordination seems to coincide with the expression of being transgender?’ the case’s judge skeptically questioned. “
Perhaps more significantly related to other such firings, the judge also dismissed the school’s claim that they could dismiss an employee who acted in a ministerial capacity, known as the “ministerial exception in discrimination law:
“He also rejected a separate motion by St. Francis Preparatory School that claimed Krolikowski was essentially a minister, which would give the school the agency to hire and fire employees disregarding legal interference.”
While the judge’s comment denying insubordination and his ruling against ministerial exception are hopeful signs for Krolikowski’s case, the situation is not yet fully resolved.
Krolikowski’s case looks like it will be one to watch since the questions of religious exemption and ministerial exception are often very important concepts in cases such as this one. These concepts, designed to protect religious liberty, become very complicated when the people being fired are not even members of the same church that runs the institution. This happened with Carla Hale, a Methodist teacher fired from a Catholic high school this year, and also with Steav Bates-Congdon, an Episcopal musician fired from a Catholic parish in 2011. Since their behavior and beliefs were not in accord with Catholic teachings in many areas, one wonders why their adherence to sexual doctrine becomes the deal breaker in employment matters.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry