Justice Department Backs Catholic Church In Teacher Firing

Sep 28, 2019

Student organizer Brooklynn Thorpe uses a megaphone to amplify music as fellow students lead school chants and cheers outside of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in June of 2019.
Credit Student organizer Brooklynn Thorpe uses a megaphone to amplify music as fellow students lead school chants and cheers outside of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Credit Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department is supporting Catholic Church leaders in Indianapolis who are being sued over the firing of a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband says the First Amendment protects the free exercise of religion and gives faith-based schools the right to associate with some people and not others. The government filed a statement Friday in Marion County court.

Joshua Payne-Elliott says the Archdiocese of Indianapolis illegally interfered in his contract with Cathedral High School where he had worked for 13 years. The school fired him in June on orders from the archdiocese. He filed a lawsuit in July.

Payne-Elliott's spouse, Layton Payne-Elliott, teaches at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. Brebeuf refused to fire Layton. The archdiocese said it no longer recognizes Brebeuf as a Catholic institution, a decision that has been suspended during the school's appeal.