Roman Catholic

Mass. Court Rules Catholic School Can't Necessarily Refuse to Hire Gays

Judge rules religious freedom doesn't apply given the particulars.


What could possibly go wrong with the government deciding when religious people are actually expressing religion?
Fontbonne Academy

Massachusetts, like all states, has its own antidiscrimination laws for employment, housing, public accommodations, et cetera. Like many states, Massachusetts does acknowledge the right of religious institutions to choose with whom to associate on the basis of its beliefs and provides some exceptions to antidiscrimination laws.

But these exemptions are not all-encompassing, as Catholic girls' school Fontbonne Academy just discovered this week. The Catholic school retracted a job offer they extended to Matthew Barrett to be their food services director when he put his husband's name as his emergency contact on employment forms, meaning he's gay and married. That's not exactly in alignment with the Catholic Church's teachings.

Barrett and the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) fought the decision as antigay discrimination. The school defended itself, calling on the religious exemption, but the judge ruled it didn't actually apply here. Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed analyzes the ruling:

The statutory exemption for education organizations "operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization" includes exemption for "any action with respect to matters of employment" — language that the court acknowledges "appears to confer upon Fontbonne the exemption it claims in this case."

However, the court pointed to later language in the statute limiting the "employer" exemption only to those schools that "limit membership, enrollment, admission, or participation to members of that religion." The school, the court found, does no such thing, so the exemption does not apply.

The judge also ruled that there was "minimal risk" of Fontbonne being seen as endorsing same-sex marriage by hiring Barrett as a food service director and noted that Barrett's job does not involve duties "as an administrator or teacher of religious matters." The school is therefore not open to using a ministerial exemption. That Barrett obviously isn't following the Catholic Church's teachings doesn't matter because he is not responsible for teaching children in any way, shape, or form.

Read more about the case and the ruling itself here.

The ruling is obviously going to be a concern to supporters of religious freedom of association, because it puts the government in the position of deciding for which hires religious institutions can allow its faith to help dictate its actual operations. Why should a judge be telling a Catholic school what positions should matter in terms of expressing its faith?

But that's also what happens when we tie freedom of association to only one particular example of expression (religion) and deny it to others. Because Massachusetts permits freedom of association leading to discrimination only in the cases for extremely small businesses or religious organizations, there is no other argument for liberty that the state would accept.

NEXT: Harvard Administrators Flood Dining Halls with Social Justice Placemats

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  1. But that’s also what happens when we tie freedom of association to only one particular example of [removed]religion) and deny it to others.

    That’s a bingo.

    1. I see no evidence that if freedom of association were disconnected from freedom of religion that the courts and the government would respect association. It is only because of the explicit protections for religion that association exists as more than a dead letter.

      1. Watching the courts reshape the plain meaning of the Constitution over time is both fascinating and depressing. You start with “freedom of association,” and you later have, “mandatory association in certain cases.”

  2. You can go ahead and remove the word ‘other’ from your last sentence.

  3. According to Robby the Whore of Babylon is just fine with teaching that Muslims and Jews worship Jesus. Apparently having a gay lunch room lady food service director is a step too far.

  4. Except we haven’t tied freedom of association to only one particular example of [removed]religion) and denied it to others.

    It has been stripped from everything in the name of diversity and equality and religion is just the latest thing on the chopping block.

    1. Yeah, that doesn’t make sense. If it was correct that they allow freedom of religion only, or at all then they would have won.

    2. Ok, I guess I’m behind the times, but I don’t understand this construction: [removed]religion)

      1. I think the commenting software is stripping open parenthesis.

        1. Yah. It said ‘expression’ with ‘religion’ in parentheses.

  5. What’s the over/under on how long it will be until the Justice Department starts categorizing as “hate groups” any church that does not embrace gay marriage?

    1. January 19, 2017.

      1. That sounds about right. I guess it depends on who wins in 2016

    2. I dunno. Negative 2 years.

  6. Mass. Court Rules Catholic School Can’t Necessarily Refuse to Hire Gays

    And in order to show that you did not refuse, you have to show that at least 3% of your employees are openly gay or dress fa-bu-lous! Because there is where this is leading, of course.

  7. The ruling is obviously going to be a concern to supporters of religious freedom of association[…]

    Because the rest of us are a bunch of Marxians who disdain Property Rights, or something.

    I mean, come on, Scott! Really? ONLY supporters of religious freedom of association should be concerned?

    1. Who else would be?

      1. Me? What business is it of the government whom I choose to employ?

        Anyway I didn’t RTFA but this mean the guy is actually going to go work there – against the wishes of his boss? That’s… insane.

        1. “DOES this mean”

        2. Nah, he will get a settlement check from the Pope and go back to doing whatever he was doing before.

          1. This gives me idea…

            1. “AN idea” goddammit I can’t tipe today

    2. They are the only ones left who are allowed to exercise freedom of association. For now.

  8. “Like many states, Massachusetts does acknowledge the right of religious institutions to choose with whom to associate on the basis of its beliefs and provides some exceptions to antidiscrimination laws.

    But these exemptions are not all-encompassing”

    WTF is that supposed to mean?

    Why not just say that some animals are more equal than others?

    Why doesn’t the separation of church and state protect the church from the state?

    1. BZZZT!

      Saying or writing “protect (anything) from the state” is hate speech.

  9. Great, so now you’re telling me that a Catholic girls’ schools is going to be overrun by lesbians?

    1. I think there are several highly acclaimed movies with that very premise underlying their plot.

  10. Why should a Christian school need or approve of a queer as an employee? Maybe we should send them to Reason.

  11. Wait a minute here. The Catholic Church wants to purge its ranks of homosexuals?

    Who is going to run the church?

    1. OT: You graciously provided some great food finds this weekend, so thought you may be interested in outcomes.

      Richard’s is unable to supply b/c STATE USDA regulated only; meaning despite striking-down COOL regulations as part of this week’s omnibus budget, we grossly over-regulate INTERSTATE commerce (apparently, OK to source from abroad, but our state regulatory authorities are not to be trusted).

      Savoie’s is on the table, and after speaking with them, my husband is questioning why we have opted to NOT move South…

      1. I am glad to hear that.

        Savoie’s and Richard’s are almost identical in their product lines and recipes. They are both very popular down here. I am glad you found one that works for you.

        More advice: Move to Louisiana. All of the south is not the same with regards to food. The Cajuns have a reputation for good food for a very good reason. The stuff dubbed as ‘Cajun’ by the non-cajuns is usually just their local tasteless recipes with added cayenne or Tony Chachere’s seasoning. Blech!

  12. Can they force the staff to pray for the healing of gays every morning?

  13. A token gay wont be enough unless they hire many more gays, especially in management roles , it will be a hostile workplace .

  14. Most observers would unfortunately characterize such situations as a contest between freedoms: those of employees & those of employers?& even then, of the employer only because the employer Is religious.

  15. Can a gay school refuse to hire Catholics?

    1. “That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” Mr. Obama said.

      More proof homosexuals need to bite the bullet and start their own religion.

    2. That’s very cute, no snark, bravo! But can a Catholic school refuse to hire Muslims?

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