Indiana Supreme Court says firing of teacher over same sex marriage is covered by religious freedom law

The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that the firing of a Catholic school teacher over his same-sex marriage is permissible because the school is protected by church autonomy under the First Amendment.

“Religious freedom protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution encompasses the right of religious institutions ‘to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine,’” Justice Geoffrey Slaughter wrote in the opinion.

“Courts can’t decide what it means to be Catholic—only the Church can do that,” Luke Goodrich, VP & senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the case, said. “By keeping the judiciary out of religious identity, the Indiana Supreme Court just protected all religious institutions to be free from government interference in deciding their core religious values.” 

Joshua Payne-Elliott was fired by Catholic Cathedral High School in Indianapolis in 2019 after the school discovered that he had married Layton Payne-Elliot in 2017.

Particulars of the case

The Catholic church opposes same-sex marriage in its doctrines, and it’s easy to see how a school would not want someone who was married to someone of the same sex teaching children in violation of its principles.

Joshua Payne-Elliott sued the archdiocese of Indianapolis over the termination.

His spouse was not fired by his Catholic school, Brebeuf Jesuit, but that school was stripped of its right to be designated a Catholic school in 2020.

After a lower court dismissed the lawsuit, Payne-Elliott appealed and the decision was reversed. The Supreme Court’s decision reversed it again.

“Commonsense ruling”

“The court’s decision today was a commonsense ruling in favor of our most fundamental rights,” Goodrich said. “Religious schools will only be able to pass down the faith to the next generation if they can freely receive guidance from their churches on what their faith is. We are grateful the court recognized this healthy form of separation of church and state.”

Rulings like this are painful for the left because they would like to force everyone to live by their values and beliefs.

They have tried to label anyone who doesn’t accept gay marriage, transgender ideology and other leftist beliefs as “hateful,” but this court ruling belies that characterization.

Unless we have freedom to believe different things without being labeled hateful or bigoted or other such slurs and punished for our beliefs, we really don’t have freedom at all.