Court: Lesbian Can Continue Lawsuit Against Catholic School

News: US News
by Stefan Farrar  •  •  October 25, 2016   

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PARAMUS, N.J. ( - A court is denying a Catholic school's second attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a fired lesbian employee. Judge Lisa Perez Friscia of the New Jersey Superior Court issued the ruling Friday, October 21. The denial came after the attorney for Paramus Catholic High and the archdiocese of Newark filed a motion for dismissal, asking Friscia to reconsider her August decision where she had had denied a similar motion.

Kate Drumgoole, dean of guidance at Paramus, was fired in January after it was revealed she had entered into a same-sex "marriage" in 2014. When it came to the President of Paramus's attention, he asked Drumgoole to resign. When she refused, he fired her.

In April, Drumgoole sued Paramus High on grounds of discrimination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Friscia ruled in August that the case would go to the discovery phase.

The lawyer for Paramus, Christopher Westrick, argued that churches and religious organizations are exempt from New Jersey anti-discrimination laws, asking that the case be thrown out of court. Westrick also argued that Drumgoole waived her right to sue when she signed a document agreeing to abide by the principles of the Catholic faith, and she violated that agreement by entering into a same-sex "marriage."

Her agreement with the school allows for teachers to be fired for "violating accepted standards of Catholic morality as to cause scandal," according to the ruling by Friscia. Drumgoole received and signed her acceptance of the archdiocese's "Policies on Professional and Ministerial conduct," with all teachers being required to follow those policies.
The case is currently in the discovery phase until September 2017, despite repeated attempts by Paramus to have the case dismissed. According to Friscia, the discovery phase is necessary to find out whether Drumgoole engaged in "ministerial conduct" in her work as an employee at the school, which would settle the issue of her firing.
Friscia wrote, "Only after discovery is complete can the court review each claim to determine whether the religious organization exception grounded in the First Amendment applies."


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