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PARAMUS, N.J. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The attacks continue against a New Jersey Catholic high school, under fire for terminating the employment of an openly "married" lesbian dean. A judge has ruled to let a lawsuit against the school proceed — and thousands of alumni are turning on their alma mater.
The legal battle began with a suit filed in Superior Court in Hackensack by Kate Drumgoole, former employee of Paramus Catholic High School in northeastern New Jersey, over her removal from the school faculty earlier this year, an action she contends is in direct violation of state anti-discrimination laws.
Arguments presented by the defendants to a judge Friday maintain the high school did not breach state regulation, as New Jersey Laws Against Discrimination allow the church and institutions operating under it to hire and fire based on the individual's cooperation with Church teaching.
According to Christopher Westrick, one of the attorneys representing the high school, Drumgoole was "not terminated because of her sexual orientation" but instead owing to her "violating the Ministerial Policies and the Code of Ethics — in failing to abide by the tenets of the Roman Catholic faith, i.e., by entering into a same-sex marriage."
However, in an 18-page decision Monday, Superior Court Judge Lisa Perez Friscia is allowing the legal proceedings against the high school to proceed, citing the need for "further discovery" to determine if Drumgoole engaged in any sort of ministerial work in her position as dean. The decision comes despite a motion from Paramus attorneys to have the suit dismissed.
"This is just Round One," remarked Larry Kleiner, an attorney charged with representing Drumgoole. "But this gains us entry to the courtroom."
In addition to the judge's ruling, thousands of alumni from Paramus Catholic High School put their names to an open letter criticizing the school's administration for what they deem to be the perpetuation of "misinformed hate against individuals on the basis of their gender and sexuality."
The post, which has received the signatures of nearly 3,700 former students, decries the school's supposed attempts to "institutionalize" an "oppressive worldview." The alumni call on the school to make reparation for their actions by issuing a formal apology to Drumgoole as well as current high school students at Paramus, in addition to implementing "policies against employment discrimination on the basis of biological sex, sex assigned at birth, gender identity, gender expression, sexual attraction, romantic attraction, and marriage status."
A second petition has also sprung up demanding that the school immediately reinstate Drumgoole. "It is not Christ-like to treat anyone this way, especially such an amazing person with a great message she lives her life by everyday [sic] and who has already given the school so much," the other open letter reads. "Do the right thing and open your minds and hearts up to the whole world around you because that includes every single person in it."
The Drumgoole situation originated with photos that had been sent to the high school's Facebook page in January featuring Drumgoole and partner Jaclyn Vanore at their August 2014 wedding. Drumgoole was soon informed by school officials that she had until January 25 to resign or her employment would be terminated.
"I believe that you need to keep your private life private, especially when you work with adolescents. So I never brought it to the work place," the plaintiff maintains.
This argument is countered by Westrick, who contends, "There's no denying the fact that Miss Drumgoole has engaged in a lifestyle and a marriage that is inconsistent with the tenets of the Catholic faith."