Statement on ruling in Starkey v. Roncalli High School and Archdiocese of Indianapolis

The Cardinal Newman Society hailed Wednesday’s federal court ruling in Starkey v. Roncalli High School and Archdiocese of Indianapolis as a “landmark ruling with enormous implications for Catholic education and its First Amendment right to expect fidelity and moral behavior from all employees, not just teachers, whose duties impact the Christian formation of students.”

The ruling in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana upholds the ministerial exception according to last summer’s Supreme Court ruling in Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru. But the Supreme Court case concerned a lawsuit filed by a religion teacher in a Catholic school. The Indiana case is an important development, because it affirms that the federal court cannot interfere in the employment decisions of a Catholic school regarding its guidance counselor.

The case involves Lynn Starkey, who attempted to sue Roncalli High School and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. She was fired from her job as Co-Director of Guidance when she entered into a same-sex union, a clear violation of Catholic moral teaching and of moral standards for Catholic school employees.

“Wednesday’s ruling is a landmark ruling with enormous implications for Catholic education and its First Amendment right to expect fidelity and moral behavior from all employees, not just teachers, whose duties impact the Christian formation of students,” said Patrick Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society.

“Catholic schools must have the freedom to hire educators and other employees who model the teachings of the Church. Catholic schools around the country should take an example from Roncalli High School and the policies of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which have clear moral standards for Catholic school employees. As this case shows, courts will uphold religious freedom when they see consistent application of Catholic moral standards.”

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