On Friday, a statement was issued by the US Department of Justice supporting the Archdiocese of Indianapolis in an ongoing dispute about wrongfully terminating Joshua Payne-Elliott, a former Catholic school teacher for being in a same-sex marriage.
The Archdiocese is being sued by Payne-Elliott for illegally interfering with his employment and contractual relationship with Cathedral High School, which led to the Cathedral terminating him.
The DOJ, in its statement, said that the Archdiocese was protected under First Amendment to interpret and apply Catholic doctrine.
While it is not clear what the statement by DOJ means for Payne-Elliott, his lawyer, Kathleen DeLaney commented that this insertion by the Justice Department in local employment issues was “highly unusual”.
DeLaney further claimed “What I take away from this is that the Trump administration is politicizing a legal dispute about an Indiana business tort.”
However, Steve Sanders, constitutional law expert and a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law mentioned that it was not uncommon for “important civil rights cases” to receive statements from presidential administrations.
Sanders further called the Justice Department’s First Amendment argument to be superficial at best, which could lead to courts ignoring it on the basis of legal merits.