A small Catholic school in Ohio has sued to protect itself from a city ordinance that may require it to hire employees and admit students who do not subscribe to church teachings on marriage and sexuality.
The Lyceum, a sixth–12th grade school with about 45 students in South Euclid, Ohio, claims the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, passed in April 2018, would punish it for adhering to Catholic beliefs, which define marriage as between one man and one woman and teach that sexual relations should occur only within the bond of heterosexual marriage. While the school accepts non-Catholic students, it will not admit students or hire employees who reject Catholic doctrine on marriage and sexuality.
South Euclid’s ordinance prohibits discrimination based on religion, creed, marital status, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression (among other things) in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The ordinance allows a religious institution to give preference to hirees from a particular religion, but only if they “perform work connected with the performance of religious activities by the institution.”
“The ordinance is vaguely written, making it impossible for The Lyceum to know with certainty whether its admissions policies, employment practices, and facility use policies violate [the rule],” the lawsuit states. It also claims the ordinance infringes on the school’s First Amendment rights of free speech and free exercise of religion.
The LGBT advocacy group Equality Ohio lobbied heavily for passage of the ordinance in South Euclid and 22 other municipalities in Ohio. It continues to push for passage of the statewide Ohio Fairness Act—modeled on the Equality Act in Congress—which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to Ohio nondiscrimination laws. Ohio is one of 26 states that does not already include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.
“The Lyceum’s parents, students, and faculty have agreed to live by community standards rooted in Catholic teaching,” Alliance Defending Freedom legal counsel Christiana Holcomb said in a statement. “The city’s hostile regulation not only threatens the school, it also undermines the rights of parents and students who deliberately seek out this unique, faith-based education.” —Steve West