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A former church worker has had her lawsuit refused by a federal court over her termination from employment, following the discovery that she is in a same-sex marriage. Colleen Simon, from Missouri, filed the case against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Her employment was terminated in May 2014, after just 10 months in employment, when an article in the Kansas City Star had highlighted that Simon was in a same-sex relationship.
The diocese argued that Simon’s same-sex union ‘contradicts church laws, discipline, and teaching and the diocesan Policy on Ethics and Integrity in Ministry’. This was supported by The Alliance Defending Freedom (representatives of the Diocese), who stated that the church was under no obligation to employ any person who doesn’t adopt its teachings and way of life.
In addition to this, legal counsel Jeremiah Galus stated, ‘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.’
Simon highlighted that she had been assured that her sexuality would have no impact on her employment with St Francis Xavier Parish. She had been working in pastoral services and creating food parcels for the needy. She stated that the Diocese’s assertions were both misleading and fraudulent acts.
The Jackson County Circuit Court ruled that the Diocese was free to exercise its religion and that the court had no place interfering in such employment decisions. It added that:
such allegations take on the hue of theological propriety, and as outsider, the court cannot but see through a glass darkly the inherent truth and falsity . . . this court shall instead rely on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to deprive it of subject-matter jurisdiction.
This reliance on the Free Exercise Clause affirmed and conveyed religious freedom in Missouri.
Simon also claimed that she was due overtime pay, a claim which was to be considered later in the year. However, the church made a settlement with Simon, the nature of which is unknown, just two days after this occurrence.
Representatives of Simon stated that they resolved this outstanding claim and an additional claim regarding the nature of her work to their ‘mutual satisfaction’.