Lawsuit Filed by Catholic Groups Against Federal Transgender Protections

Three Catholic organizations are suing the U.S. federal government over a regulation that went into effect yesterday which expands anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people further.

Headquarters of US Department of Health and Human ServicesA new Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) regulation interprets existing regulations banning discrimination based on sex as including sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. The regulation stems from the Affordable Care Act, and is rooted in the non-discrimination protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.

According to the National Catholic Reporter, the HHS regulation “requires group health plans to cover these procedures and services” related to gender transitions and counseling for gender identity questions. The regulation applies to any group health plans, insurers, and hospitals who receive federal funding and does not include a religious exemption.

Three Catholic groups — the Catholic Benefits Association (CBA), the Diocese of Fargo, and Catholic Charities North Dakota — are now claiming the regulation violates religious liberty protections found elsewhere in federal law. The CBA offers insurance and employment benefits to church workers in Catholic dioceses, education, healthcare, and religious life.

Bishop John T. Folda of Fargo said that while the church does not discriminate based on a person’s “orientation,” Catholic values “will not permit us to pay for or facilitate actions that are contrary to our faith.” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who is not only the head of the U.S. bishops’ committee on religious liberty but is also chairperson of the CBA, said President Barack Obama’s administration sought to “impose radical new health care mandates . . .creating a moral problem for Catholic employers.”

Two other lawsuits in federal court are challenging the HHS regulation.  They were filed by the Becket Fund, a conservative Catholic legal/political organization. The suits include  Catholic plaintiffs such as the Franciscan Alliance, the Sisters of Mercy in North Dakota, the University of Mary, and SMP Health System. A half dozen states have joined the suits as well.

In a related case, the HHS regulation was invoked in a discrimination lawsuit by a transgender man against the Dignity Health system, which the man alleges denied him gender-confirming surgeries. That lawsuit is ongoing, reported Crux.

But transgender advocates have challenged these claims of religious liberty violations as misguided. Jillian Weiss, director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), said the regulation establishes parity in healthcare for trans people. Gay Star News reported:

“‘The only thing a doctor is obliged to do is treat all patients, including trans patients, with dignity and respect and to make treatment decisions free from bias,’ said Ezra Young, staff attorney for the TLDEF, in a statement.

“‘If a doctor has a sound, evidence-based, medical reason to delay transition care for a specific patient, that would be respected under the regulations.'”

Despite contrary claims, the regulation does not force health care providers to deliver services they do not deem medically necessary. It only ensures trans people have equal rights and equal treatment. Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, explained to PinkNews, “‘What the rule says is if you provide a particular service to anybody, you can’t refuse to provide it to anyone.'”

As with many discussions of LGBT legal rights in the United States, religious opponents of equality have set up a false contrast between LGBT communities and religious institutions. These matters are really about balancing the goods of human dignity, conscience, equal rights, and religious liberty, all of which are affirmed in Catholic teaching. At times, legal action is needed to uphold rights; more often, a collaborative approach could advance the common good by bringing together different interest groups and finding a beneficial solution for all involved.

The sadder reality about these present lawsuits is that church officials have buttressed their claims with ideas that do not exist in church teaching. There is no prohibition on gender transitions or mental health counseling for LGBT people, whereas non-discrimination protections and equality of persons are well-established doctrine. Despite the claims of some church leaders and right-wing organizations, Catholics in the United States are overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT rights.

It is worth noting, too, that Pope John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris was among the first instances where healthcare was named as a human right. Outside the United States, where the nation’s bishops have in recent years waged an ideologically driven attack on the Affordable Care Act, the church has championed expanded access to healthcare. Malta, a very Catholic island nation, passed a transgender rights law which is considered the gold standard in Europe. Historically Catholic nations elsewhere have led the way on transgender and intersex legal rights.

Most tragic is that while U.S. church officials expend their time and resources fighting LGBT rights and claiming that religious liberty is under attack, they neglect almost wholesale the discrimination and violence LGBT people face and the very real threats to religious liberty present in our world today.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, January 2, 2016

 

For Third Time, Court Rejects Catholic School’s Motion to Dismiss Discrimination Suit

A New Jersey Catholic school’s motion to dismiss the discrimination lawsuit it faces from a fired lesbian employee has again been dismissed.

promo296257259
Kate Drumgoole, right, and her wife, Jaclyn Vanore

The motion, filed by co-defendants Paramus Catholic High School and the Archdiocese of Newark, was denied by a New Jersey state appeals court. This means a lawsuit filed against them by former Paramus Catholic dean Kate Drumgoole can proceed.

Drumgoole sued the school in August after being fired earlier this year when the archdiocese became aware of her same-gender marriage with Jaclyn Vanore. NJ.com reported:

“[Drumgoole] alleges she was discriminated against by the archdiocese, the school and its president after it was revealed that she was married to a woman.

“The school admitted in a legal motion that she was fired because of her marriage, but argued it didn’t violate state rules because church employees must abide by the Catholic faith.”

This is the third time a joint Paramus Catholic-Archdiocese of Newark motion to dismiss the lawsuit has been rejected by New Jersey courts.

In October, a judge rejected the argument that the defendants were exempt as religious institutions from the New Jersey Laws Against Discrimination (NJLAD), saying a ruling on whether such an exemption applies could not yet be made.

The case will likely come down to whether Paramus Catholic and the Archdiocese are exempt from the states’ employment non-discrimination exemptions, based on whether Drumgoole is legally considered a minister. The defendants have admitted outright that Drumgoole, a former guidance counselor and basketball coach, was fired because she entered a civil marriage with her wife.

The discovery period which can now finally proceed will allow for a determination of whether the exemption applies or not. A finding may be quickly followed by a resolution.

A recent editorial from The Record said it seems as if Kate Drumgoole’s discrimination suit “has been going on for years, but in reality, it has only barely begun.” The editors commented further:

“Whether Drumgoole’s team can prove its case – although we have held she should not have been terminated – Drumgoole’s case deserves to be heard in a court of law. Individuals who believe they have been wrongfully terminated have the right to seek legal redress, to take their case to a court, to have the justice system weigh the merits.

“Despite efforts by the school and the archdiocese to seek dismissal, a Superior Court judge, and now a state appeals court, have both concluded that Drumgoole’s case has enough merit to keep moving forward. Only by proceeding to discovery can a clearer picture begin to be drawn in the case of an abrupt firing of someone who, from all appearances, seemed to be a model employee and representative of the school.”

Drumgoole’s case sparked a number of related controversies in the local Newark church this fall. Fr. Warren Hall, an archdiocesan priest, was suspended from priestly duties in part because of his support for Drumgoole.  The school’s principal was suspended from work for a few days, and the school’s president still remains suspended. Over 3000 school community members signed a petition protesting Drumgoole’s firing.

A particularly troubling aspect of this firing is that church officials only became aware of the marriage after an estranged family member of Lenore’s sent photos of the couples to them. Drumgoole’s job description does not seem ministerial, and it would seem fitting that she be protected by LGBT non-discrimination laws. Whatever the court’s ruling, it will not change two facts. First, church officials allowed a family wound to be exploited by them to cause further harm. Second, they are defending their discrimination against an LGBT person by claiming a religious exemption. While that maybe legally correct, the Catholic tradition does not support such discrimination.

Instead of waiting on a court’s ruling, Newark’s new Cardinal Joseph Tobin should end the legal defense, admit a discriminatory mistake was made, apologize to Drumgoole, her wife, and Catholics generally, and see how reconciliation can now be attained. Such actions initiated by Tobin, who was appointed by Pope Francis, would be a clear indication that the exclusionary style and actions of his predecessor, Archbishop John Myers, are no more. And that is Good News which Newark’s Catholics very much need to hear this Christmas.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2007 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, December 20, 2016

 

Priest Bans Gay Man from Singing at Grandmother’s Funeral

When Connor Hakes’ grandmother died, he wanted to honor her with a song at the funeral. But because he is a gay man, the parish priest denied Hakes’ request to sing, adding more pain to an already painful time.

conor-hake
Connor Hakes

Hakes’ family are longtime parishioners at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Decatur, Indiana. Generations of the family, including his grandmother, were part of the community there, and Hakes had even sung at the church before, reported WANE.

But Fr. Bob Lengerich, pastor, banned Hakes from singing at the parish until the “present situation” was resolved, though he did not, in the letter explain what the “present situation” is.  One of the issues mentioned in the letter that would ban people from liturgical roles was “openly participating in unchaste same-sex relationships.”

Father Lengerich made his thoughts known in a letter to the grieving grandson. The letter also said that scandal is caused by someone “openly advocating” for same-gender relationships. He claimed there were “several LGTB parishioners who have openly declared their intentions to embrace a homosexual lifestyle” and therefore do no receive communion at Mass, nor serve in any parish liturgical ministries.

The priest told Hakes that he could sing to honor his grandmother “as long as it is outside of the Mass and outside of the Church,” even suggesting the post-burial luncheon as a possible moment. He concluded the letter saying the parish did want Hakes present and did “want to enter into a real dialogue and conversation.”

lengerich
Fr. Bob Lengerich

Hakes claimed that Fr. Lengerich based his claims about the gay man’s sexual life on a picture posted to Facebook several years ago of Hakes celebrating Pride. The grandson told WANE that Lengerich “had judged me and really formed an opinion about me without ever communicating with me. . .All of a sudden I felt very ostracized” from the parish that had always welcomed him.

The family has filed complaints with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, which is now involved to seek healing after the divisive incident. Hakes said he prays that Lengerich’s heart will soften to allow the priest to become “a better leader for the Catholic Church.” Hakes is also very clear about where his grandparents would stand on the matter and what Christian discipleship entails, reported PinkNews:

“Both my Grandma and Grandpa would be disgusted by their parish. Their compassion and empathy was abundant, no matter who you were. They saw beyond race, religion, sexuality, and social class. They loved everyone. That is what [it] means to be a Christian. That is what it means to be Catholic.”

Whatever his intention, Fr. Lengerich’s offer of dialogue and conversation falls flat when framed wihin the context of the priest denying Hakes the opportunity to honor his deceased loved one. Why didn’t he enter into dialogue and conversation before making a decision? It  is particularly disturbing that Lengerich somehow dug up a years-old photo of Hakes, and then seems to have inferred from it that Hakes was in a same-gender relationship. Certainly, there are more productive uses for Lengerich’s time and energy as a priest.

Once again, a priest who should be a source of consolation and unity has added to a grieving family’s pain and divided a parish community. Denying LGBT people the ability to participate in mourning rituals or denying them Communion at a funeral Mass are not infrequent events sadly. If church ministers cannot even be merciful and welcoming in these most painful moments, how can the church expect LGBT people and their families to show up at any other moment?

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 30, 2016

 

 

Fired Church Worker Shares Testimony of Faith, Parishioners’ Support

Fired for being in a same-gender marriage, church worker Michael Templeton shared his experiences of faith and community support in a new article he penned for the Providence Journal.

michael-templeton-800x430
Michael Templeton and his husband

Templeton, who was fired in mid-September as the music director for the Church of St. Mary in Providence, described the last month as “rather overwhelming.” He wrote:

“[N]ot only trying to find the words to share my story, but listening to how what happened to me has impacted so many others, and all of this while trying to process a sense of personal grief for what has seemingly been lost: a ministry to a beloved church to which I’ve dedicated a quarter century.

“Regardless, I am profoundly grateful to the hundreds of people who have reached out to show their love and encouragement during the last four weeks: St. Mary’s parishioners, high school and college friends, liturgical musician colleagues from across the country, churchgoers of other denominations, and even perfect strangers who connected with my story in some way. What it tells me is that I’m living the life I’ve been called to and that my 25-year commitment to ministry through music has, in fact, made a difference.”

Templeton wrote about his understanding of faith and his own beliefs, saying that expressing faith is “a tricky thing” because:

“It is something so deeply personal and certainly not something that should be diminished, debated or devalued. We cannot claim to completely understand any other person’s journey because it occurs in the context of a very unique set of values, relationships and experiences. Those who make presumptuous judgments or offensive statements might first consider reconciling their own faults and failings with their higher power.”

He affirmed more positively his belief that every person is “created by a God who loves us unconditionally,” and said the only perspectives which matter in life’s key moments are the perspective of loved ones. Templeton added:

“Most importantly, I know that there are faith leaders and faith communities out there who authentically embody the proclamation: ‘All are welcome.’ My hope is that people of all faith traditions find a spiritual home where they are truly valued and challenged to push beyond their tightly held biases, boundaries and beliefs.”

Ever pastoral, Templeton concluded by urging readers to pray for Fr. Francesco Francese, the pastor at the Church of St. Mary, and Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence whom he described as “the local faces of a church struggling to remain culturally relevant and fiscally viable,” as well as the Church of St. Mary community which has been so wounded by this firing.

Templeton had been music director at the church for more than five years, with nearly twenty-five years in Catholic music ministries. The Church of St. Mary had a reputation for being a welcoming parish, but that identity ended with this firing. Parishioners had hoped Fr. Francese would address the matter, but after he did not in his homily the Sunday after Templeton was fired, a choir member joined by some thirty people began singing “All Are Welcome during the recitation of the Nicene Creed. Several parishioners questioned whether they could remain at that parish or the Catholic Church at all.

Bishop Tobin cited Pope Francis in his defense of the firing, which he said the church had “no choice” in doing. But there is always a choice, and this firing in Providence is a prime example of what the editors of America called “unjust discrimination” in their editorial last week against the firing of LGBT church workers.

Templeton’s sharing reveals not only the deep pain and communal wounds which discrimination by church leaders inflicts on communities, but also the powerful hope and fidelity to Christ’s inclusive love with which Catholic communities are responding to these injustices. Catholics know there is always a choice to not exclude an LGBT church worker, but there is never a choice not to love as God loves us – actively and unconditionally.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the Employment Issues category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2007 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, November 4, 2016

On My Dismissal from Lectoring at Daylesford Abbey

scan2
William di Canzio

Today’s post is by William di Canzio, a playwright  who has taught at Smith College, Haverford College, and Yale University. At Yale, he was also appointed dean of Trumbull College, academic director in residence to four hundred undergraduates. He has published essays in Commonweal magazine. He holds a PhD  from Johns Hopkins University and MFA from the Yale School of Drama, where he was awarded the Eugene O’Neill scholarship in playwriting. He now teaches in the Pennoni Honors College of Drexel University, Philadelphia.

A week ago Saturday the abbot of Daylesford Abbey, a Norbertine community near Philadelphia, emailed me requesting a meeting; he said he would rather not disclose its purpose. A few days later we met for coffee. Abbot Richard Antonucci started our conversation by saying that he’d heard that Jim Anderson and I had been legally married. “I want you to believe this,” he said: “I sincerely
wish you many, many years of happiness together.”

Then he passed me a copy of a directive from Archbishop Charles Chaput of
Philadelphia stating that members of same-sex couples should “not hold
positions of responsibility in a parish, nor should they carry out any liturgical
ministry or function.” Richard said he intended to enforce the directive.

Our talk was frank but friendly. I reminded him that the abbey is not a parish
and nor is Chaput his superior. True enough, but, Richard tells me, all Catholic
laypeople in the archdiocese are subject to Chaput’s authority.

I argued that I knew of local pastors choosing not to enforce the directive because
of its injustice. Richard said he was unwilling to take the risk.

“You’re the spiritual leader of the place I’ve been part of for thirty-five years,” I
said. “How do you counsel me?”

Richard said that he hoped I might find it in my heart to remain in the abbey
community.

The pain of this decision can only be felt where there is love. Here’s why it
hurts: when I first came to Daylesford Abbey in 1981, I had just undergone what
I later learned is called a conversion. Raised Catholic, educated in a parish
school and at Jesuit prep school, I’d become disaffected with the church in
college. Then, at 30, I got knocked off my horse and struck blind, so to speak,
and returned to a church much different from the one I’d known as a kid. My
discovery of Daylesford Abbey, with its refined architecture, enlightened
preaching and ravishing liturgy, was a revelation within the revelation. Though
I’d never seen the place before, when I entered its church for the first time, I had
the uncanny feeling that I’d come home.

In those early days, the abbey’s liturgical director befriended me and put me to
work immediately on special projects: revising a hymnal with an eye to
amending sexist language; arranging a psalter and canticles to be used in the
Daylesford Rite of the Hours. We likewise collaborated on liturgical events—the
consecration of the Abbey’s Church of the Assumption, a children’s mass for
Christmas morning, and the Good Friday Veneration of the Cross, a service that
has since become Daylesford’s signature. From the beginning, even before
lectoring, mine has been a ministry of words.

Even during the many years I lived in New Haven, I kept close to the Abbey. I
was commissioned to write a three-year cycle of penitential rites for its
Sunday mass based on the scriptural readings for the day. In 1988 I became an
Affiliate (one considering entering the order); in 2001, an Associate (a layperson
with an especially active role in the abbey’s life). During the declining years of
my parents (who loved the place), the Abbey was a source of solace to me as
caregiver. Two Norbertines celebrated my father’s funeral.

Lectoring has been a particular passion for me. On my conversion, I was drawn
to the lectern because of the beauty of what I heard and my desire to know it
better. A writer myself, I prepare my assignments as if I had written them, so
that I can present them to the assembly with understanding and conviction.

Forgive me if this sounds like a resume. My point is Charles Chaput knows none
of this about me. Richard himself, who came to Daylesford in 2000, did not
know how very long is my history there. Neither of these men knows that Jim
decided to be confirmed a Catholic after attending Pentecost mass at Daylesford,
though Richard remembered fondly Jim’s magnificent chanting of the Passion
narratives, solo, from the Abbey pulpit on three consecutive Palm Sundays and
Good Fridays.

My meeting with the abbot on October 20 was not my first encounter with
the episcopal directive. I’d read about it in the news some months before. Of
course it made me angry: it’s very offensive. Chaput asserts that same-sex
couples “offer a serious counter-witness to Catholic belief, which can only
produce moral confusion in the community. Such a relationship cannot be
accepted into the life of the parish without undermining the faith of the
community, most notably the children.”

This strikes me as hypocritical, perhaps even cynical, especially the phrase
concerning children: we remember that Benedict XVI appointed Chaput to
Philadelphia in the midst of the legal consequences of disclosures of the history
of clerical pedophilia in the archdiocese.

In his administration, Chaput has crossed a line into alienating the laity whom he
was entrusted to serve. He has advocated, even lobbied, against extending the
Pennsylvania commonwealth’s statute of limitation on crimes of sexual
predation. Perhaps alienation is a deliberate strategy: like the failed pope who
appointed him, the archbishop has spoken publically about the advantages of a
“smaller, lighter” church.

Since my meeting with Richard, I’ve gone through several phases of grief:
betrayal, anger, self-pity, sorrow, and worst, I realize now, was a sense of shame
and disgrace. These latter emotions are what victims of abuse are made to feel in its aftermath, but they’re also familiar to gay men of my age. And I thought I was done with those—years and years ago.

–William di Canzio, November 4, 2016

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of other LGBT-related church worker and parish volunteer disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2007 where church workers or volunteers have lost their positions over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

Jesuit Weekly Criticizes “Unjust Discrimination” against LGBT Church Workers

A major outlet in the English-speaking Catholic media has opined against the firing of LGBT church workers.

downloadAmerica Magazine, a Jesuit weekly in the U.S., printed an editorial titled “Unjust Discrimination” on the issue of LGBT firings. The editors opened by discussing a 2015 policy change by German bishops to prevent church workers who are divorced and remarried or in same-gender partnerships from being discriminated against in employment. The editors wrote:

“Civil unions for same-sex couples have been legal in Germany since 2001. What sparked last year’s policy change? The bishops recognized that the previous church law, which included a ‘morals clause’ for Catholic employees, was being selectively applied. . .

“Under the new law, the church in Germany can dismiss an employee who publicly expresses ‘opposition to fundamental principles of the Catholic Church—for example by support for abortion or for racial hatred’ or who disparages ‘Catholic faith content, rites or practices,’ on the grounds that these infractions would constitute a ‘grave breach of loyalty.’ “

The editorial cited Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki of Cologne, who at the time the German bishops announced their new policy explained that the change sought “to limit the consequences of remarriage or a same-sex union to the most serious cases [that would] compromise the church’s integrity and credibility.”

Such reasoning and reasonableness has not been present among the U.S. episcopate, even after the nation’s Supreme Court legalized marriage equality nationwide and despite the growing number of church workers who are entering same-gender marriages. The America editors noted a disparity between Catholic colleges and other Catholic institutions in the treatment of LGBT employees and acknowledged cases where “individuals have been secretly reported to their supervisors by other members of the community.” They continued:

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church, while teaching that homosexual acts cannot be morally accepted, also requires that homosexual persons be ‘accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided’ (No. 2358). The high public profile of these firings, when combined with a lack of due process and the absence of any comparable  policing of marital status for heterosexual employees, constitute signs of ‘unjust discrimination,’ and the church in the United States should do more to avoid them. In addition to any possible harm done to the employees who have been fired, the appearance of unjust discrimination weakens the church’s overall witness. The church will lose talented, devoted workers because of institutional decisions made under pressure or without sufficient discernment.”

Employment issues about gender and sexuality pose a further problem since many lay Catholics disagree with the Magisterium, yet church institutions are dependent on the same lay people whose consciences have led them to a more accepting stance. The editors asked how this situation could be sustainable in the long term, and replied:

“The answer is not to downplay or gloss over these teachings. Catholics are called to preach difficult truths about a range of subjects, including but not limited to marriage and sexuality. But what is the best way to do that? It is true that sometimes an employee of a Catholic institution can cause scandal by his or her public words or deeds. But it is also true that treating employees unfairly, by holding them to different standards or dismissing them abruptly or without consultation, can itself cause scandal.”

One proposal the editorial cited is that of Archbishop Joseph Tobin, newly named to become a cardinal in November, who advocated a case-by-case approach in a recent interview with America. There are complex questions of formation and support, too, and the editors conclude:

“The church must be free to conduct its ministries without government interference and with room to challenge prevailing social mores. But we also have a duty to proceed with wisdom and mercy, attentive to the dignity of the individual and the common good.”

This editorial from America adds significantly to Catholics’ responses against the firings as discriminatory and unjust, adding to a 2014 editorial from the National Catholic Reporter. These pieces come as more than 60 church workers have lost their jobs in LGBT-related employment disputes since just 2008. The firings continue, such as the case of  educator Kate Drumgoole and music director Michael Templeton. This latest editorial highlights both the need for positive action in defense of LGBT church workers, the complexities of church employment, and ultimately the tremendous harm done when church leaders discriminate against faithful employees.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of this story, and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 60 incidents since 2007 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

Court Says Case of Fired Lesbian Teacher Can Go Forward–for Now

For the second time, a New Jersey judge has ruled that the employment discrimination suit of a lesbian teacher fired from a Catholic school can go forward, despite motions by the school and archdiocese attorneys to get it dismissed.  But because the judge’s decision was based on a very specific legal technicality, the possibility that the teacher will be victorious in the case still remains highly uncertain.

Kate Drumgoole

Kate Drumgoole, a former guidance counselor and basketball coach at Paramus Catholic H.S., in the Archdiocese of Newark, is suing because she was fired from her job when administrators learned that she was married to a woman.

Judge Lisa Perez Friscia denied the request by the school and archdiocese, the defendants, to reconsider her August 22nd decision to dismiss the case, saying that no new facts were presented by the institutions’ lawyers.

According to NorthJersey.com:

“Friscia ruled in August that the case should go to the discovery phase, which would end Sept. 3, 2017.

“ ‘Only after discovery is complete, can the court review each claim to determine whether the religious organization exception, grounded in the First Amendment applies,’ Friscia wrote.”

So, the defendants’ request for a religious exemption from New Jersey Laws Against Discrimination (NJLAD) may yet be allowed to proceed.  The judge’s ruling stated only that the religious exemption could not apply at this stage of the case.

According to the news article:

“Friscia ruled that the defendants ‘have not established, at this early juncture,’ that the school can apply religious tenets to employees not engaged in ministerial duties and she said that by merely claiming the religious exemption the school is not necessarily entitled to it.”

It looks like the case is going to turn on the court’s understanding of the definition of a minister and ministerial work.    According to a news report, the attorneys for the school and archdiocese point out:

“Drumgoole signed an acknowledgement that she received the Archdiocese’s ‘Policies on Professional and Ministerial Conduct’ and a ‘Code of Ethics.’ The school’s faculty handbook also says that all teachers must comply with the code of ministerial conduct policies. Her collective bargaining agreement allows for tenured teachers to be terminated for ‘violating accepted standards of catholic morality as to cause public scandal,’ according to the written ruling this week.”

However, the other side sees the situation differently:

“Drumgoole’s attorneys, Eric Kleiner and Lawrence Kleiner, have argued that Drumgoole’s job did not include ministerial duties and that the school uses some of the NJLAD in its faculty handbook, making it liable to all of the laws against discrimination.”

Drumgoole also claimed in her suit that she thinks her firing may be related to her raising charges against two school employees in the recent past:

“Drumgoole, in her certification, said she also believes her firing may have been retaliatory. Drumgoole had alerted school officials to an incident involving two Paramus Catholic employees who allegedly had sex with students during a school trip to Germany.

“In late 2011, two male former employees of the high school were indicted on charges of having sex with at least three female students during a school trip to Germany.

“The state Supreme Court in March 2015 threw out all the overseas sex charges involving Artur Sopel, the school’s vice president of operations at the time of the trip, and Michael Sumulikoski, a substitute teacher. The court ruled local prosecutors had no jurisdiction to charge the two, who were chaperones for the February 2011 school trip.”

Drumgoole’s case has already sparked a number of controversies in the local church.  Fr. Warren Hall, an archdiocesan priest, was suspended from priestly duties in part because of his support for the teacher.  The school’s principal was suspended from work for a few days, and the school’s president still remains suspended. their jobs for a while. Over 3000 school community members have signed a petition protesting Drumgoole’s firing.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry, October 25, 2016