Judge rules against Milton Catholic school in gay-hiring retraction
By Associated Press | December 17, 2015, 15:28 EST
BOSTON (AP) — An all-girls Catholic prep school in Milton violated state anti-discrimination law by rescinding a job offer to a man in a same-sex marriage, a judge ruled, spurring a blistering attack from the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts on Thursday.
Matthew Barrett was offered a job as Fontbonne Academy’s food services director in 2013, but the offer was withdrawn days later after he listed his husband as his emergency contact.
Barrett sued, alleging that the school discriminated against him based on sexual orientation and gender. Norfolk Superior Court Judge Douglas Wilkins agreed, rejecting Fontbonne’s claim that hiring Barrett would infringe on its constitutional rights because it views his marriage to a man as incompatible with its religious mission.
The judge said Barrett’s duties as a food services director did not include presenting the teachings of the Catholic church.
“As an educational institution, Fontbonne retains control over its mission and message. It is not forced to allow Barrett to dilute that message, where he will not be a teacher, minister or spokesman for Fontbonne and has not engaged in public advocacy of same-sex marriage,” Wilkins wrote in a ruling issued Wednesday.
The decision represents “a frontal assault on religious freedom, an appalling subordination of the First Amendment to the Massachusetts gay rights law, and a victory by homosexual activists in their campaign to coerce Christians into compliance with same sex marriage,” the Catholic Action League said in a statement released Thursday.
“Religious liberty is guaranteed not only by the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but even more broadly, by Article II of the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution,” C. J. Doyle, the league’s executive director, said in the statement. “Religious freedom consists not merely of the right to worship, but of the right of religious institutions to govern their internal affairs free of state interference.”
But the judge found that a religious exemption to the state anti-discrimination law applies only if a religious organization limits admission to people of a certain religion. Fontbonne is open to students and employees of all faiths, with the exception of its administration and theology faculty.
“Judge Wilkins’s decision would compel Catholic institutions to hire those who reject and despise Catholic teaching, fatally impairing the constitutionally protected right of those institutions to carry on their mission,” Doyle said. “This is precisely the sort of ‘excessive entanglement’ of government with religion decried and prohibited by the U.S. Supreme Court in Lemon v. Kurtzman.”
The ruling highlights “the charade-like character of the religious exemption to the 1989 Bay State gay rights law,” Doyle said.
It was not immediately clear if Fontbonne plans to appeal the ruling. Fontbonne’s attorney, John Bagley, did not immediately respond to a phone message and email seeking comment. A message was also left at the school.
Barrett’s attorney, Ben Klein of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, said the judge has found that Fontbonne is liable to pay damages to Barrett for lost wages and compensatory damages for discrimination. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.
“Marriage equality has been the law of Massachusetts for over a decade and it is now the law of the land. But you can’t have equality if you can get married on Saturday and fired on Monday,” Klein said.