Lawsuit can’t violate NJ Catholic school’s religious freedom, attorney says

A Catholic high school’s attorney says the school fired its dean and basketball coach because she violated Catholic teaching by contracting a same-sex “marriage,” not because it discriminated on the basis of her sexual orientation.

Attorney Christopher Westrick said New Jersey anti-discrimination law protects church requirements that school employees live according to Catholic standards. He said Paramus Catholic High School of Paramus, N.J. is protected by the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The attorney is representing the Catholic school, its president James Vail and the Archdiocese of Newark against a lawsuit from a former employee.

Former school administrator and staffer Kate Drumgoole, who filed suit against the school, said she was fired in January as dean of guidance and head coach of the basketball team at the school after administrators learned she had entered a same-sex marriage with a woman.

In court Aug. 22 Westrick asked Bergen County Superior Court Judge Lisa Perez Friscia to dismiss the lawsuit, reports.

Drumgoole’s attorneys argue that her job never included religious instruction. They say other staff and faculty members are divorced, have children out of wedlock, and cohabitate with the opposite sex in violation of Catholic teaching.

Westrick said Drumgoole signed an acknowledgment form agreeing to abide by Catholic tenets that was part of her collective bargaining agreement.

In court papers, he said she was fired for violating the school’s ministerial policies and its code of ethics.

Judge Friscia is expected to rule on whether the lawsuit can go forward this week. The Archdiocese of Newark told EWTN News that it does not comment on matters in litigation.