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Fired gay high school teacher sues Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Fired gay high school teacher sues Archdiocese of Indianapolis

Archdiocese of Indianapolis' Catholic archbishop Charles Thompson

A gay teacher fired from a Catholic high school in Indiana after marrying his partner is suing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The previously unidentified teacher, Joshua Payne-Elliott, filed his lawsuit on Wednesday (10 July). He is suing the Archdiocese over wrongful termination by interfering with his employment contract. He is also seeking various damages, including lost wages, emotional distress, reputation injury and more.

Payne-Elliott worked for Cathedral High School in Indianapolis for 13 years. He was a world language and social studies teacher.

Prior to his termination, Payne-Elliott signed a teaching contract for the 2019-2020 school year. Throughout his career at Cathedral High School, they renewed his contract on an annual basis.

When Cathedral President Robert Bridges let Payne-Elliott go, he made it clear he considered Payne-Elliott a ‘very good teacher’ and his termination did not have to do with his performance. Instead, he was being let go following a directive from the Archdiocese.

Defying the Archdiocese?

In June 2019, the Archdiocese sent out a letter to its Catholic schools with instructions to follow various moral instructions in order to ‘retain its recognition as a Catholic school’.

One school, Brebeuf Jesuit preparatory school, where Payne-Elliott’s husband, whom he married in 2017, refused to fire a gay teacher. Archbishop Charles Thompson then issued a statement cutting ties with the school and defended the policy.

Brebeuf said there was a ‘sincere and significant disagreement’ between itself and the Archdiocese over ‘final governance decisions related to internal administrative matters’.

‘Specifically, Brebeuf Jesuit has respectfully declined the Archdiocese’s insistence and directive that we fire a highly capable and qualified teacher due to the teacher being a spouse within a civilly-recognized same-sex marriage,’ the school’s statement ended.

Cathedral High School, however, did not do the same.

According to the lawsuit, Bridges told Payne-Elliott the Archdiocese’s directive felt like a ‘gun to the head’. Regardless, the school made the decision to fire Payne-Elliott so it could maintain its ‘Catholic identity’.

Cathedral High School has since promised to help Payne-Elliott find a new job.

The Archdiocese did not respond to GSN’s request for comment prior to publication.

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