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Indiana high court declines to dismiss case from teacher fired by Cathedral HS

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Supreme Court on Thursday refused to throw out a lawsuit by a teacher who says he was fired from Cathedral High School because he is gay.

The court rejected a request from the Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis to dismiss the case.

Joshua Payne-Elliott worked as a teacher at Cathedral for 13 years. He says the archdiocese ordered him to be fired last year because he’s in a same sex marriage.

Payne-Elliott, who was terminated by the school in June 2019, said a month later that the archdiocese “illegally interfered with his contractual and employment relationship.”

The archdiocese says the firing is legal because the church has freedom of religion protections under the First Amendment.

The justices’ vote was 2-2, with Chief Justice Loretta Rush abstaining. Indiana Supreme Court rules say that means the request is denied.

The court named Lance Hamner, a Superior Court judge in Johnson County, as the new special judge to hear the case.

The lawsuit is against the archdiocese only, not the high school.

The archdiocese posted a statement on its website in August 2019 that said, in part, “When a teacher at Cathedral publicly entered a same-sex marriage in violation of his contract and of Catholic teaching, the Archdiocese spent almost two years in dialogue with Cathedral to discern the most appropriate pastoral response. The Archdiocese eventually informed Cathedral that if it wished to remain affiliated with the Catholic Church, it could not continue employing a teacher who lived in open violation of Catholic teaching. Desiring to remain a part of the Catholic Church, Cathedral ended its employment relationship with Mr. Payne-Elliott. Mr. Payne-Elliott then sued the Archdiocese, alleging that its rules for Catholic schools violate Indiana law.”

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