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Federal judge rules in favor of Roncalli, Archdiocese of Indianapolis in Shelly Fitzgerald case

Lawsuit originally filed in 2019
Shelly Fitzgerald Roncalli.jpg
Posted at 9:55 PM, Sep 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-30 21:55:34-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge has ruled in favor of Roncalli High School and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis years after a former guidance counselor filed a federal lawsuit against both parties.

Shelly Fitzgerald filed the lawsuit in 2019.Fitzgerald worked for Roncalli for 15 years before she was fired after the school learned she was in a same-sex marriage.

Fitzgerald alleged that Roncalli retaliated against her and the Archdiocese interfered with her contractual and business relationship with the school.

The Archdiocese and Roncalli said the ministerial exception bars all of Fitzgerald's claims. The exception binds courts "to stay out of employment disputes involving those holding certain important positions with churches and other religious institutions."

Fitzgerald argued that Roncalli never entrusted her with religious teaching duties by raising numerous genuine factual disputes over what exactly she did at the school.

In court documents, Judge Richard L. Young wrote that "Roncalli entrusted Fitzgerald to teach the Catholic faith and carry out Roncalli's religious mission. Fitzgerald's employment agreement was a "teaching ministry contract" and Fitzgerald agreed to "[f]aithfully perform all duties of a [t]eacher in the school."

Young also said that the job of a high school guidance counsellor is "predominately secular" and that it was a stretch to call the counsellor a minister.

"But because Roncalli, through the employment agreement and faculty handbooks, expressly entrusted Fitzgerald with shaping the school's religious policy, Fitzgerald's position as Co-Director of Guidance qualifies for the ministerial exception," the document read.

The judge granted summary judgement and resolved all of the claims at issue in the case.

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