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  • Justice Dept steps up defense of Catholic high school that fired gay teacher

CNB News – The Trump administration submitted new documents Tuesday in support of an Indiana Catholic school that was sued for firing a teacher in a same-sex marriage.

In a 35-page amicus brief, the Department of Justice argued that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis is, like other religious employers in the U.S., “entitled to employ in key roles only persons whose beliefs and conduct are consistent” with its “religious precepts.” Additionally, the brief states the “Constitution bars the government from interfering with the autonomy of religious organizations.”

The brief went on to argue that Joshua Payne-Elliot, the teacher who filed the lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in July 2019, has “the responsibility of educating and forming students in the faith” and continuing to employ him would “interfere with the Archdiocese’s public expression of Church doctrine regarding marriage.”

The DOJ’s brief comes a year after it filed a “statement of interest” in the same case, with the department arguing in a news release at the time that “the First Amendment protects the right of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis to interpret and apply Catholic doctrine.”

Payne-Elliott served as a world language and social studies teacher at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis. His attorney said in a press release shortly after Payne-Elliott filed the lawsuit that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis “illegally interfered with his contractual and employment relationship with Cathedral High School, causing Cathedral to terminate him on June 23, 2019.”

“For thirteen years, Mr. Payne-Elliott was a cherished educator of countless students at Cathedral High School,” the court filing stated. “Cathedral renewed his annual teaching contract on May 21, 2019. But on June 23, 2019, Cathedral’s President told Mr. Payne-Elliott that the Archdiocese had ‘directed’ Cathedral to terminate him, and that Cathedral was following that directive.”

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