Catholic School Drops Religious Liberty Lawsuit Against City Non-Discrimination Ordinance

A press conference in April announcing The Lyceum’s lawsuit

A Catholic school in Ohio has terminated its lawsuit targeting a city anti-LGBTQ non-discrimination ordinance that was being challenged on religious liberty grounds.

The Lyceum, a small Catholic middle-and-high school, filed its lawsuit against the city of South Euclid in April. School officials claimed a city non-discrimination ordinance inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression failed to provide a religious exemption for the school, which upholds Church teaching for students and staff alike. Cleveland.com reported on the latest development:

“An attorney for The Lyceum wrote in a court filing Tuesday that the city clarified its position as it relates to portions of the ordinance and is satisfied it will not adversely affect the school because of its teachings. . .

“The city only clarified its position after The Lyceum asked a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction to bar the city from enforcing the law against the school, according to a dismissal notice filed by attorney Christiana Holcomb.

“The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which represented the city, wrote in a court filing opposing an injunction that the private school is not considered a place of public accommodation. The ACLU also said the school’s religious hiring practices are also exempt from the ordinance.”

The Lyceum, which is not affiliated with the Diocese of Cleveland but is housed in a parish facility, was represented by the highly anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom. The Alliance, listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has used alleged religious liberty violations nationwide to try and curtail LGBTQ equality. Keith Ari Benjamin, director of the city’s Community Services, criticized the Alliance for “working to divide our community and spread falsehoods and hate.” Benjamin added:

“[Dropping the lawsuit] is a victory for our community, our residents, the LGBT community and all those working to stop the spread of hate and all discrimination across our nation. It validates that South Euclid’s ordinance is legal and valid and that their own allegations don’t make out a claim.”

The Lyceum’s ability to treat its LGBTQ community members differently than all others was never imperiled by the ordinance, which was not applicable even without a specific religious exemption. Indeed, the school’s lawsuit did not claim harm had been done, but only that it might hypothetically be done. Perhaps school officials knew their claims were overstated or perhaps they were genuinely ignorant of the facts. Either way, this lawsuit is an example of the reactionary strategy of using the idea of religious liberty to discriminate. Ending The Lyceum’s lawsuit in South Euclid is indeed a victory–a victory which will hopefully be won every time the Alliance Defending Freedom and its allies seek to diminish LGBTQ equality based on a false understanding of what real religious liberty means.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, June 5, 2019

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