The Trump administration has sided with
the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in its legal fight to fire employees
who are in a same-sex marriage.
The U.S. Department of Justice on
Friday issued a Statement of Interest in a case involving a teacher
who alleges he was wrongfully terminated because he's married to a
Over the past year, the Archdiocese of
Indianapolis has pressured Catholic schools to fire three gay,
married employees. The archdiocese said that the employees' marriages
were a violation of church doctrine.
In a lawsuit filed in July, Joshua
Payne-Elliott claims that the archdiocese illegally interfered with
his employment at Cathedral High School. Payne-Elliott has said that
he never signed a contract that includes language that prohibits him
from marrying a person of the same sex.
In its statement, the Justice
Department states that courts “cannot second-guess how religious
institutions interpret and apply their own religious laws.”
Payne-Elliott's lawyer, Kathleen
DeLaney, told the Indianapolis Star that the Justice
Department is arguing that the case is about religious liberty when
“Josh Payne-Elliott was employed by
Cathedral High School,” DeLaney said. “Cathedral High School
fired my client because the archdiocese told them to and threatened
to take various actions against Cathedral if they refused to fire my
“That is textbook intentional
interference in an employment relationship. He was not employed by
the archdiocese but the archdiocese had him fired,” she added.
Sasha Samberg-Champion, a civil rights
lawyer, said in a tweet: “This isn't even [a] conventional
employment discrimination case. Plaintiff alleges that archdiocese
coerced his employer to break binding contract. Apparently the U.S.
position now is that there's religious freedom from keeping your
Steve Sanders, a constitutional law
expert who teaches at Indiana University's Maurer School of Law, said
that the DOJ's move “appears to be more calculated to win favor
with the president's base of religious conservatives than it does to
seriously assist the court's adjudication of this case.”
One of the other two fired employees
has filed a similar lawsuit and the other is expected to in the
coming weeks, the Indianapolis