A former Catholic high school teacher in Indiana who was fired for being in a same-sex marriage is suing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. An attorney for Joshua Payne-Elliott argues that the archdiocese “illegally interfered with [Payne-Elliott’s] contractual and employment relationship with Cathedral High School, causing Cathedral to terminate him on June 23, 2019.” Payne-Elliott is also pursuing discrimination charges against the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the IndyChannel reports. In response to the lawsuit, the archdiocese issued a statement saying religious liberty ensures that “religious organizations may define what conduct is not acceptable and contrary to the teachings of its religion,” including exercising this discretion over its staff.
Payne-Elliot, who had worked at Cathedral High School for 13 years, had his contract renewed for another year in May but was subsequently told in June that the archdiocese had “directed” the school to fire him. Upon his firing, the school released a letter explaining the “agonizing” decision, saying that the “continued employment of a teacher in a public, same-sex marriage would result in our forfeiting our Catholic identity due to our employment of an individual living in contradiction to Catholic teaching on marriage.”