In 2019, Shelly Fitzgerald filed a federal lawsuit alleging she was discriminated against, the victim of retaliation and subject to a hostile work environment because of her sexual orientation and marriage. (Fitzgerald is a former Roncalli High School guidance counselor who was suspended and eventually fired because of her same-sex marriage.) On Friday, Shelly Fitzgerald filed an appeal to a U.S. court after an Indiana district court dismissed her case in September 2022 erred on the grounds of the First Amendment.
“The First Amendment rightly gives religious employers special solicitude to choose important religious figures to teach and preach the faith,” Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the group defending Fitzgrald, noted in their brief. “It does not give them the power to choose what laws apply to them and when.”
“This case is part of a dangerous trend: The school’s attorneys and religious employers are urging courts to adopt an ever-broader interpretation of the ministerial exception, which was meant to ensure that houses of worship could freely choose their clergy,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United, in a statement. She also explained that the attorneys who represented the Archdiocese of Indianapolis should not have been able to use “ministerial exception” given Fitzgerald did not have a position as a minister.
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