The Justice Department has filed a “statement of interest” supporting the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in its decision to fire a school teacher because he was married to someone of the same sex.
The Department of Justice said: “The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of religious institutions and people to decide what their beliefs are, to teach their faith, and to associate with others who share their faith,” Eric Dreiband, assistant attorney general for the civil rights division, said in a statement. “The First Amendment rightly protects the free exercise of religion.” U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler also said that “if the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses stand for anything, it is that secular courts cannot entangle themselves in questions of religious law.”
Payne-Elliott had worked at Cathedral High School for thirteen years when the school's president informed him that the archdiocese ordered to fire him because he was married to a man.
“The Archdiocese told Cathedral that the school’s continued employment of a teacher in a public, same-sex marriage in contradiction to Catholic teachings on marriage would result in Cathedral’s forfeiture of its Catholic identity. After much deliberation, the school terminated the teacher,” notes the Department of Justice statement.
Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, wrote on Twitter that the move by the Justice Department shows how the Trump administration is “once again using religion as a shield against core anti-discrimination principles that protect LGBTQ people.”