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Trump administration backs firing of gay teacher at Indianapolis Catholic school

Sept. 11, 2020
Justice Department says the archdiocese's directive to have Cathedral High School dismiss the teacher is protected by the First Amendment.

The Trump administration is siding with the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which ordered one of its school to fire a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

NBC News reports the the U.S. Justice Department argues in a court brief that the archdiocese's action is protected by the First Amendment.

The archdiocese ordered Cathedral High School in Indianapolis to fire teacher Joshua Payne-Elliott, who is gay.

After his termination from Cathedral, where he worked for 13 years, Payne-Elliott filed a discrimination complaint against the archdiocese with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and filed a lawsuit a month later, alleging that his firing caused “emotional distress” and damaged his reputation.

The Justice Department's amicus brief in the lawsuit contends that the archdiocese is, like other religious employers, “entitled to employ in key roles only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent” with its “religious precepts.” In addition, the brief states, the “Constitution bars the government from interfering with the autonomy of religious organizations.”

Payne-Elliott’s battle with the archdiocese started last spring, two years after he married Layton Payne-Elliott, who teaches at a different Catholic high school in Indianapolis.

In a directive sent to Cathedral High School, where Joshua worked, and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, Layton’s employer, the archdiocese issued an ultimatum: fire both men or lose your recognition as a Catholic institution. Cathedral chose to fire Joshua Payne-Elliott; Brebeuf refused to fire Layton Payne-Elliott.

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