Appeals court upholds decision in Roncalli discrimination lawsuit

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The Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a former guidance counselor’s discrimination claims against Roncalli High School and the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

In a decision handed down Thursday, the appeals court upheld a district court decision that the Indianapolis Catholic high school was within its legal bounds when it decided not to renew Lynn Starkey’s employment contract in 2019 after learning that she was in a civil union with a woman.

In August, Judge Richard Young of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana denied Starkey’s motion for summary judgment on her claims alleging discrimination and a hostile work environment under Title VII and alleging tortious interference under Indiana law. The court had previously granted judgment on the pleadings to Roncalli on Starkey’s Title VII retaliation claim.

The district court concluded “that Starkey qualified as a minister, and that the ministerial exception bars all of Starkey’s claims,” Young wrote in his decision.

In its opinion, the Seventh Circuit looked at previous Supreme Court decisions that protect churches and religious institutions from government interference and recognize the principle of ministerial exception.

Starkey worked at the school for 39 years, including 21 years as a guidance counselor.

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2 thoughts on “Appeals court upholds decision in Roncalli discrimination lawsuit

  1. This falls under the “ministerial exception.” The term minister is interpreted within that framework. She is a minister within that term of art. (If there was a reasonable legal question about that, the lawsuit would be continuing.)