The Archdiocese of Indianapolis is appealing to the Indiana Supreme Court to dismiss a discrimination lawsuit brought by a fired gay employee.
The suit brought by Joshua Payne-Elliot, a teacher at Cathedral High School for 13 years who was fired over his same-gender marriage, has gone through many steps in the legal process since it was initiated in 2019. It was dismissed last year, but an Appeals Court reinstated the case declaring the dismissal was an error.
In the latest development, the archdiocese filed a petition to transfer the case to the Indiana Supreme Court. The Indiana Lawyer reports that the archdiocese’s request stated:
“The decision permits plaintiffs to (haul) religious leaders into court to defend fundamentally religious determinations — here, an Archbishop’s ecclesiastical directive setting the terms of religious affiliation with the Catholic Church. The decision also conflict with settled precedent from this Court, and federal and state courts across the country, threatening irreparable harm to religious entities and the judiciary alike.”
Indiana’s Attorney General, Todd Rokita, filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief in favor of the archdiocese’s request. He said a court does not have the constitutional power to tell a church what a religious matter is. In his brief, Rokita told the Indiana justices to “shut this case down for good.” The archdiocese and Rokita argue that the church has “‘absolute immunity’ from the suit.”
For his part, Payne-Elliot is asking for access to all church documents concerning other employees who were deemed to be violating church doctrine. He also wants to see any church document concerning “conduct that does not conform to the doctrine and pastoral practice of the Catholic Church.” Rokita and the archdiocese warn that this discovery and exposing of internal church documents would “cause harm to church autonomy.”
—Elise Dubravec (she/her), New Ways Ministry, March 19, 2022