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Catholic School Sues City Claiming Intrusion of Rights

June 28th, 2019

The Montana Supreme Court recently struck down a tax credit for donations that fund scholarships for students at private schools.
A Catholic school has sued an Ohio city over its LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, claiming its First Amendment rights are being violated by the ordinance.

An independent Catholic school in South Euclid, Ohio and the non-profit legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom recently initiated a lawsuit against the city of South Euclid on the basis that certain regulations created by a city ordinance in 2018 infringe on the school’s First Amendment and religious liberty rights. Even though it is still uncertain how this case will turn out, it highlights some of the important issues regarding the subject of religious freedom versus government control.

How the Lawsuit was Initiated

The Lyceum is a small, Catholic school with 53 students. As part of the lawsuit initiated by Lyceum against the City of South Euclid, the school claims that the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ people is in violation of the school’s religious rights to enforce its own teachings on marriage and gender identity. The school also claims that the city’s regulations impact the school’s internal admissions and hiring policies and ultimately interfere with the school’s First Amendment Rights.

The History of the Ordinance

In 2018, the South Euclid City Council passed a series of anti-discrimination regulations that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, gender expression, gender identity, or sexuality in areas of employment and public accommodation. While the Lyceum’s views are Catholic, the school is independent of the Diocese of Cleveland and leases a building from the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish. In the process of getting the ordinance passed, one section entitled “Prohibited Acts of Discrimination Related to Educational Institution” was removed, which the city claims excluded the ordinance from applying to educational institutions.

Another element of the lawsuit to understand is a regulation passed by the city that prohibits a business or place of public accommodation from posting, printing, or publishing statements that indicate that someone would be refused service at the location for a discriminatory reason. The school argues that regulation violates its First Amendment rights.

The Arguments Presented by Both Sides

A headmaster for the school has commented that the city’s ordinance presents a direct threat to the school. Legal counsel on behalf of the Alliance Defending Freedom also claims that the regulation was poorly written. The city’s director of community services, however, has commented that the school is not under threat.

The Potential Impact of the Case

A spokesperson for the city has stated that the regulation was modeled around similar regulations in other areas of Ohio including Akron, Cuyahoga County, and Cleveland, and that state and federal law already exempt religious educational institutions. It remains uncertain exactly how this case will resolve, but the decision could have a profound impact on how anti-discrimination laws apply to churches in Ohio as well as the rest of the country.

Continue Reading the Universal Life Church’s Blog

While the separation between church and state extends to the creation of the United States Constitution, each year there are still a number of cases that test this relationship. By reading the Universal Life Church’s blog, you can remain up to date with the various issues concerning church and state.

(image courtesy of Redd Angelo)

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