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Americans United appeals the case of the former guidance counselor at Roncalli High School



Indianapolis, Indiana – Americans United for Separation of Church and State has appealed the federal judge’s ruling in the matter of Shelly Fitzgerald, a former guidance counselor at Roncalli High School who was fired in 2018 because she was married to another person of the same sex.

Judge Richard Young made a favorable decision in September in favor of the Indianapolis Archdiocese.

Young supported Fitzgerald’s dismissal by the Archidocese, claiming that the “ministerial exception” to federal anti-discrimination workplace laws applied.

In his ruling, Young wrote, “To be sure, ‘[i]t is a stretch to call a high school guidance counselor a minister,’ as ‘the job is predominantly secular.’”

Young added: “But because Roncalli, through the employment agreement and faculty handbooks, expressly entrusted Fitzgerald with shaping the school’s religious policy, Fitzgerald’s position as Co-Director of Guidance qualifies for the ministerial exception under Starkey. Since the application of the ministerial exception bars all of Fitzgerald’s claims, summary judgment is appropriate for Roncalli and the Archdiocese.”

Americans United argued that Young erred in dismissing Fitzgerald’s case in an appeal brief submitted on Thursday to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“The First Amendment rightly gives religious employers special solicitude to choose important religious figures to teach and preach the faith. It does not give them the power to choose what laws apply to them and when,” the brief notes.


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