INDIANAPOLIS — A judge with the United States District Court of Southern Indiana ruled in favor of Roncalli High School after a former counselor sued the school after she was dismissed from her position due to being in a same-sex marriage.
Judge Richard Young stated his judgment in favor of Roncalli and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis was based on the ministerial exception, which shields religious institutions from certain anti-discrimination laws under the defense of the First Amendment which protects churches and other religious institutions to decide matters of the church, faith or doctrine without government interference.
The lawsuit against Roncalli and the Archdiocese was filed in October 2019 by former Roncalli High School guidance counselor Shelly Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald’s story first came to light in August 2019 when she said the school dismissed her after discovering she was married to a woman. Fitzgerald had worked at Roncalli for 15 years and had been with the same partner for 22 years. Roncalli said her same-sex marriage was a violation of her contract with the school.
In her filing, Fitzgerald said she was never classified as a ministerial employee and her position as guidance counselor did not require any religious instruction or training.
Another former Roncalli counselor, Lynn Starkey, also filed a lawsuit against the Catholic school in November 2018. An appeals court recently sided with Roncalli in that decision as well, stating the school’s decision to not renew her contract due to her being in a same-sex marriage was protected by the freedom of religious schools to choose leaders who uphold their core religious teachings.