While We’re Talking About Hypocrisy…

Over the years, opponents of equal civil rights for LGBTQ citizens manufactured all manner of secular justifications for their bigotry. They claimed that homosexuality was a mental disorder, that gay men were all promiscuous, that children require a “traditional” marriage between a male and female in order to thrive, and more.

There was no credible evidence for any of these assertions, and as a result, gay folks won important legal victories, including the right to legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Opponents of that progress are left with what has always been the actual justification for their animus: religious doctrine.

Thanks to the First Amendment’s religion clauses, doctrinal homophobia is a protected belief. Pastors can inveigh against homosexuality from the pulpit without fear of official sanction, and people who accept those beliefs are free to avoid socializing with gay folks.

What religious beliefs cannot be used to justify, however, is legal discrimination. When the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, some “Christians” opposed it because they claimed their religion required separation of the races and submission of women. The First Amendment doesn’t include a right to make those beliefs the law of the land.

The First Amendment protects religious belief. Civil rights laws protect members of marginalized groups from discrimination. What happens when those two rights collide?

In Indianapolis, we’ve seen recent examples of that collision. Two Catholic high schools have fired employees–guidance counselors and teachers of secular subjects–for the sin of same-sex marriage. 

Joshua Payne-Elliott, the teacher fired from Cathedral High School because of his same-sex marriage, is suing the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

Until now, Payne-Elliott had not been identified publicly. His husband, Layton Payne-Elliott, is a teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School. They married in 2017. The couple have been at the center of a fight between their schools and the Catholic Church, which directed the schools to fire both men.

Brebeuf refused to fire Layton Payne-Elliott, so the archdiocese stripped the school of its Catholic status. Cathedral fired Joshua Payne-Elliott to avoid the same fate.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday in Marion County alleges that the archdiocese illegally interfered with Joshua Payne-Elliott’s contractual and employment relationship with Cathedral High School, causing Cathedral to terminate him.

“We hope that this case will put a stop to the targeting of LGBTQ employees and their families,” Payne-Elliott said in a news release

The Archdiocese is arguing that they are within their rights under the current jurisprudence of religious liberty, and that “religious organizations may define what conduct is not acceptable and contrary to the teachings of its religion, for its school leaders, guidance counselors, teachers and other ministers of the faith.”

Payne-Elliott taught world languages and social studies, and Cathedral confirmed that his termination had nothing to do with his performance. The principal acknowledged that he was a very good teacher. Evidently, Cathedral would have preferred not to fire him, but gave in to the demands of the Archdiocese.

Brebeuf, the Jesuit school that employs Payne-Elliott’s spouse, did not, and it deserves credit for its refusal to terminate him.

Given the current makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, it is likely that the law will continue to favor assertions of religious doctrine over the civil and contractual rights of gays and lesbians. But  the court of public opinion is a different matter. After all, Catholic dogma isn’t confined to disapproval of same-sex marriage. Church doctrine opposes divorce, sex out of wedlock, adultery, even–as I understand it– refusal to attend mass, among other sins. To the best of my knowledge, Catholic schools haven’t been terminating teachers who transgress those rules.

Why this very selective enforcement of doctrine?

And why does the State of Indiana allow public voucher  funds to be used at schools like Cathedral and Roncalli that openly discriminate against a subset of Indiana citizens? Inquiring minds want to know–or really, we can guess.


  1. This is mostly self contempt. The church has always been filled with gay priests. It still is. This is crazy to the nth degree. The state of IN sends lots of money to an organization run by Gay men as long as they are Publicly opposed to Gay men. Great logic. More generally, We should send NO PUBLIC MONEY to ANY church school. Not one dime. Ever.

  2. They have a lot of nerve condemning this couple when they haven’t paid for their sins. You know, the child abuse by pedophiles priests. I’ve left the church for that reason and that reason alone. I actually met a gay priest who finally left the priesthood and married his partner. I am all for forgiveness to anyone’s sins but being gay isn’t one of them. Neither is being a trans individual. I’ve photographed beautiful churches all over the world but as for worshiping a God they teach, please! Not this atheist.

  3. I wrote an article about a man on Indiana’s school board. He also worked at Wesleyan college. I believe it was during the Pence years that they installed state funding to Wesleyan even though they discriminated against who they hired. You had to make a faith statement. I believe Taylor did the same, so I assumed all religious schools did the same. As a result, they couldn’t receive public funds.

    However, once they found a back door (no pun intended) to get around this exclusion, they should have dropped their exclusionary clauses. Since the high schools are accepting public dollars as well, their church doctrine veil should have been broken.

    I know in corporations it works that way, so it should work the same for churches. If you want public money, then you should play by the same rules as public schools and drop all the discriminating terminology from hiring. As for accepting black students, I suppose private schools can get around the law by making it nonverbal.

    Either way, it’s immoral because it is dishonest. They are placing profits ahead of their principles.

    Where have we heard that before?

  4. Brebeuf’s refusal isn’t a surprise. The Jesuits have long been a thorn in the side of Catholic Hierarchy. The seem somehow determined to follow the teachings of some guy named Jesus, whereas the hierarchy picks and chooses, as they have done since the second Council of Nicea.

  5. My daughter attended a Jesuit Prep school in Chicago in the ’90’s. At the time, there was a proposal in the Illinois legislature to give tax breaks to parents who sent their children to private schools. I was nearly banished from the parents organization when I refused to support that proposal. I believe then, as I believe now, in total separation of church and state. It was our choice to send our daughter to that school, and she received an excellent education. However, it was not up to the taxpayers of Illinois to support our decision.

  6. As a general rule, I’d tend to side that a private, religious school (if it accepted NO state money) would have the right to employ only those who line up with their beliefs. It seems a little silly to me that a gay teacher would want to work for an organization that officially hates/condemns/banishes to Hell him or her.

    But, I’m am utterly on board with making them enforce ALL their “beliefs” if they want to enforce 1 of them.

  7. Bigots don’t need credible evidence. After all, they have fear, ignorance and fairy tales to keep them warm.

  8. It’s funny; the left-wing seeks to prevent each of us individually from behaving in ways that compromise the freedom of others while the right-wing seeks to prevent others from behaving in ways that power finds objectionable. In other words, left-wing is freedom from others, right-wing is a power over others concept.

    The left-wing is a legal democratic concept, the right-wing is a cultural concept. The right-wing justifies holding governments responsible for what governments are not enabled to do in order to create the right-wing utopian state government, people, and country.

    It is all about freedom versus power. That’s why our founders aspired for a liberal democratic state.

  9. I am watching Citizen on Netflex. They had 3 episodes that explained all the historical events that led to the creation of the 14th amendment due to the horrific history of slavery, the violent reaction of white supremacists, the resistance that arose against desegregation. I learned a lot. Some of the history brought back memories of what I witnessed in my adolescence. They mentioned the assasination of Martin Luther King but not JFK or Robert Kennedy. There is only 1 episode given to the 2nd wave of feminism, gay liberation, and immigrants. I watched the one on the fight for the rights of gay people. They failed to present violence against us, the way that psychiatrists tried to change our orientation, or the abusive strategies of conversion therapy. I realize that the focus centers around the 14th amendment and how it guarantees civil rights, but feel that they have given short shrift to what the LGBTQ community has suffered due to homophobia. If they have a 2nd season perhaps they will do so. And there is nothing on the genocide of Native Americans.

    Fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims have used their religous beliefs to justify slavery, homophobia and mysogyny and will continue to do so. They choose to feed the black wolf. I don’t know that we will ever see a world that has rid itself of the horrific plague of bigotry. We cannot legislate our way out of it.

    As I say in my song “The Small Difference”. You will not see my bowed in despair, for I know wherever I go, Love goes before me there.

    I’m so grateful that all of you are working toward ridding yourselves of any internal biases that dwell within you.

  10. The South Carolina legislature, recently adjourned, is blushingly accepting kudos for almost passing, in this session, an anti-hate bill prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination. That makes it one of the two states in America where such bigotry is still lawful. SC evangelicals opposed the bill while the Chamber of Commerce – desperate for employable talent – lobbied strongly for it. The hypocritical legislature says, with a wink, that it will take up the legislation again next year. With many more evangelicals than members of the CoC in our state, passage would be a miracle from God, whom, ironically, the evangelicals claim to serve. When will church people get over their obsession with everything sexual?

  11. In response to Terry Munson’s question, I think church people will never get over their obsession with sex. What better way to control people than to control their sex lives? Sex is the most basic instinct (second only to eating), and if you control that, you’ve got ’em.

  12. Perhaps gay teachers at religious schools would have the best legal case against such schools for their selective enforcement of biblical teachings. If church schools are not firing staff for divorce, using birth control, living with an unmarried partner, eating pork and shellfish, wearing two different fabrics at the same time, doing any work on the sabbath, or a number of other biblical rules, then they are practicing discrimination and failing to strictly follow the Bible. To do so with taxpayer funds makes that discrimination an even greater offense.

  13. Terry writes, “When will church people get over their obsession with everything sexual?”

    That depends.

    Are you in the Freud or Jung camp? 😉

    If you cannot differentiate religion as a philosophy versus your humanness and all the aspects of the human psyche then I believe religious folks are doomed to closed-mindedness.

    Sex is a human instinct. There is nothing dark about it nor should we be ashamed. The degrees of repressing this instinct burst out in all sorts of character defects. Look at Catholic priests for example and all the gays who deny their own sexuality and run to the church (Mike Pence) and use it to condemn others who’ve accepted their sexuality.

    Look at all the studies of how men overcompensate for their sexual inadequacies – guns, trucks, bigger trucks, etc. 😉

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