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Ministerial exception

RELIGION | Catholic school wins employment case ruling

Roncalli High School Mader Design LLC

Ministerial exception
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A Catholic high school in Indianapolis was within its rights to fire a lesbian guidance counselor, according to a federal appeals court ruling on July 13. A three-judge panel from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled that Roncalli High School legally fired Shelly Fitzgerald four years ago, upholding the school’s employment standards in a case with implications for religious employers.

Fitzgerald, a Roncalli graduate, worked at the school for 14 years before administrators discovered her same-sex marriage in 2018. The Archdiocese of Indianapolis asked Fitzgerald either to dissolve the marriage, resign, or “keep quiet” until her contract expired. When she refused, Roncalli placed her on administrative leave, then fired her in mid-2019.

The counselor sued the school, alleging discrimination and a ­hostile work environment. A U.S. District Court in Indiana dismissed her case in September 2022. Fitzgerald appealed, but the 7th Circuit ruled she was legally fired according to the “ministerial exception,” a legal doctrine that allows religious organizations to fire ­certain workers who don’t agree with their beliefs.

Though Fitzgerald did not give spiritual instruction as a guidance counselor, she also served on an administrative council that the court found “participated in at least some religious planning and discussion.” Therefore, her case fell under the ministerial exception.

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis has fired multiple homosexual employees in recent years, generating a slew of legal battles. The federal appeals court ruled in Roncalli’s favor in a similar case with another guidance counselor, Lynn Starkey, last year.

Zabihullah Mujahid

Zabihullah Mujahid Rahmat Gul

Quran burning backlash

Iraq expelled Sweden’s ambassador while the Afghan Taliban blocked Swedish organizations from operating in Afghanistan after two anti-Quran protests in Stockholm, including a Quran burning. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced the suspension of Swedish organizations in a July 11 statement.

Swedish authorities allowed an Iraqi refugee, Salwan Momika, to burn a copy of Islam’s holy book during a protest outside a mosque on June 28. Momika later protested again by publicly stomping on a Quran July 20, triggering the Iraqi prime minister’s decision that day to end diplomatic relations with Sweden. Iraqi protesters also stormed the Swedish Embassy in Baghdad and started a fire there. Protests in Sweden must be authorized by authorities, but the country’s constitution protects most actions taken during an approved protest as free speech. —E.R.

Elizabeth Russell

Elizabeth is a reporter and editorial assistant at WORLD. She is a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.


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