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Teacher fired for his same-sex marriage files appeal after lawsuit against Archdiocese was dismissed

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Posted at 3:31 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-20 17:09:46-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A former Cathedral High School teacher who was fired for his same-sex marriage has filed an appeal after a special judge dismissed his lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis earlier this month.

Joshua Payne-Elliott filed the appeal in an attempt to overturn the judge's dismissal.

“We must continue to courageously show our families, friends, and students how to stand up to bullies," he said in a statement. "The loving values of this community stand boldly above the divisive actions taken by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and we look forward to a proper review of this case.”

Kathleen DeLaney, Payne-Elliott's attorney, said the dismissal offers no reason, rationale or basis for the decision.

“We have no way to know how the judge got to the decision," DeLaney said in a press release. "The lack of an explanation is unusual, particularly because both the Indiana Supreme Court and the prior Special Judge had already considered and rejected the Archdiocese’s First Amendment arguments.”

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed the freedom of religious schools to choose educators who fully support their religious mission," said Luke Goodrich, senior counsel at Becket, the law firm representing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. "If the First Amendment means anything, it means the government can’t punish the Catholic Church for asking Catholic educators to support Catholic teaching—and we look forward to another ruling affirming this basic principle."

In December 2020, the Indiana Supreme Court denied the Archdiocese of Indianapolis' request to dismiss the lawsuit and appointed a special judge.

Payne-Elliott began working at Cathedral High School as a world language and social studies teacher in August 2006. He was fired in June 2019 "at the direction of the Archdiocese," according to a lawsuit.

Three days after Payne-Elliott accepted and signed a new teaching contract, he was told the school was expecting a letter from the Archdiocese stating Cathedral needed to "adopt and enforce morals clause language used in teacher contracts" in order to be recognized as a catholic school and keep it's tax-exempt status, according to the lawsuit.

His spouse, Layton Payne-Elliott, is a teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. They married in 2017.

On June 20, Brebeuf Jesuit said it was declining the Archdiocese's directive to fire his spouse, a "highly capable and qualified teacher," because he was in a "civilly-recognized same-sex marriage."

The next day, the Archbishop issued a decree and said Brebeuf Jesuit can't use the Catholic name and would no longer be recognized as a Catholic institution.

And two days later, Joshua Payne-Elliott was fired by Cathedral.