A homosexual teacher fired from Cathedral High School will have his day in court – once again.
The Indiana Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that a Marion County superior court erred in dismissing Joshua Payne-Elliott’s lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and overturned the decision, returning the case in court.
Payne-Elliott, professor of languages and world social studies, was fired in June 2019 after the Archdiocese asked all Catholic schools under its jurisdiction to apply a morality clause that prohibits employees from contracting same-sex marriages.
Payne-Elliott’s complaint alleges that the Archdiocese unlawfully interfered with his contractual and professional relationship with Cathedral, which prompted the school to fire him.
Payne-Elliott had worked at Cathedral High School since 2006. He is married to Layton Payne-Elliott, a teacher at the Jesuit Preparatory School Brébeuf. They tied the knot in 2017. The couple have been at the center of a fight between their schools and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which ordered schools to fire the two men. Brébeuf did not respect the directive, to which the archdiocese responded by attempting to strip Brébeuf of its status as a Catholic institution.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis argued that the trial was prohibited by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, claiming in court documents that the First Amendment prohibits a secular court from interfering in the internal affairs of the church.
The church ruled in this case and in two other lawsuits brought against her by other former employees fired for same-sex marriages that it has the right to set such rules for its employees.
The Payne-Elliott case alleges that by doing so, the church interfered with its contractual and employment relationship with Cathedral. His contract was with the school, but not with the church.
In May, the court dismissed the Payne-Elliott case based on several trial court rules. The three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled that Judge Lance Hamner was incorrect in the ruling.
The appeals court ruled that the trial court had jurisdiction to hear the case and that it was too early in the process to dismiss the case for summary judgment. He also ruled that the court had erred in dismissing the case with prejudice, which would have meant that the same claim could not be brought before this court.