INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Missouri state court has ruled in favor of the diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, upholding its right to fire an employee who publicly contracted a so-called gay marriage, as it opposes Church teaching.
Before being hired by the diocese as director of social ministries at St. Francis Xavier Parish in 2013, Colleen Simon informed the director of religious education she was a lesbian and was told then that would not bar her from being employed there.
But when an article in the Kansas City Star's 816 Magazine broke the story of her so-called marriage to lesbian Lutheran minister Donna Simon in April 2014, then-head of the diocese Bp. Robert Finn asked Simon to resign.
In July 2014, Simon filed a legal complaint against Bp. Finn and the diocese.
Last November, the diocese filed a motion for summary judgment, not disputing any material claims or facts as presented by Simon but asking that the case be ruled solely on the basis of existing law protecting the Church's right to act in accord with its religious beliefs.
The diocese argued:
This case presents a clear question of law: whether this Court may entertain claims that require the Court to second-guess a church's application of its own religious doctrine, policy and practice where a church decides its ministerial employee is no longer able to minister. These are questions of law, not fact.
The existing law was summed up in the motion as follows:
The United States Supreme Court, Missouri courts, and courts nationwide have made clear that, as a matter of constitutional law, courts cannot interfere with a church's right to control its internal affairs and choose its ministers — regardless of how the lawsuit before the court is labeled or fashioned. These well-settled constitutional principles compel summary judgment in favor of the Diocese and require this Court to dismiss Plaintiff's lawsuit in its entirety.
Jackson County Judge Kenneth R. Garrett III, in upholding the diocese's motion, ruled February 16 that Simon's claims were "cloaked in the guise of ostensibly religiously-neutrally-applicable fraud claims," and the Court would rely on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to uphold the rights of the Church.
In the ruling, Garrett found that to decide in favor of Simon "would impermissibly entangle the court in matters and decisions purely canonical, since the court must necessarily examine the religious views and practices of the diocese in an attempt to perceive the reasonableness of [her] reliance on the diocese's representations."
Senior Counsel Erik Stanley with Alliance Defending Freedom, the attorneys representing the diocese, commented,
A church isn't obligated to employ those who act contrary to the Church’s teachings. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this as recently as four years ago. If churches are forced to employ people who do not follow the religious teachings of those churches, the church will no longer be able to minister consistently or freely in accordance with its faith.
To learn how homosexual activists are using the political system, watch "Mic'd Up—Homofascism: Taking No Prisoners."