Court Sides with Diocese in Same-Sex Worker Suit

KC diocese logoA Missouri court rejected the primary claim of a former Catholic diocese ministry worker who sued the diocese for terminating her employment once leadership learned of her same-sex union.

According to a press release from Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a non-profit legal organization that defends religious liberty, the court ruled last week that the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion means the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph is free to make its employment decisions without court interference.

The case in question began in July 2013 when Colleen Simon went to work as director for social ministries for St. Francis Xavier Parish in the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph. The priest at St. Francis ended Simon’s employment in May 2014 after an article appeared in the Kansas City Star that described her as married to another woman. The diocese explained to Simon that her same-sex union “contradicts Church laws, discipline, and teaching and the diocesan Policy on Ethics and Integrity in Ministry.”

Simon sued, alleging that she was “defrauded into believing her same-sex marriage was of no concern to the Catholic Church and could not affect her employment with the Diocese,” the ruling states. “She also claims overtime wages for her work at St. Francis Xavier, and alleges that a Service Letter falsely lists her same-sex marriage as the reason for her termination.”

The court ruled against Simon, saying that her claims “are failed attempts to plead around the longstanding rule in Missouri: the law does not let courts handle ministerial firing disputes.”

It goes on to explain: “The United States Supreme Court, Missouri courts, and courts nationwide have made clear that, as a matter of constitutional law, courts cannot interfere with a church’s right to control its internal affairs and choose its ministers—regardless of how the lawsuit before the court is labeled or fashioned. These well-settled constitutional principles compel summary judgment in favor of the Diocese and require this Court to dismiss Plaintiff’s lawsuit in its entirety.”

Were the judges to rule in her favor, it would result in involving the court – and potentially a jury – “in complicated and, more importantly, constitutionally-prohibited questions about the Catholic Church’s doctrine and teachings on homosexuality, same sex marriage, and their relative importance and effect on employment within the Church. Thus, not only is summary judgment appropriate here, it is the only way to protect the Church’s constitutional rights.”

ADF attorneys applauded the outcome. “A church isn’t obligated to employ those who act contrary to the church’s teachings. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this as recently as four years ago,” said ADF Senior Counsel Erik Stanley. “The district court was on very firm constitutional ground to reject this attempt to drag the government into a church’s theological decisions – the very line the First Amendment says the government cannot cross.”

“If churches are forced to employ people who do not follow the religious teachings of those churches, the church will no longer be able to minister consistently or freely in accordance with its faith,” added ADF Legal Counsel Jeremiah Galus.

This case proves that not all courts in this great country cave to the PC police!

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