Federal Court Rules Against Gay Man Fired By Catholic Church For Engagement To Man

A federal judge has ruled that Colin Collette was lawfully fired from his job as music director of Holy Family Catholic Community parish in Inverness, Cook County, Illinois. Collette was fired after 17 years of work with the church after he announced his engagement to his same-sex partner.

From The Chicago Tribune:

But U.S. District Judge Charles Kocoras indicated in his ruling that the law gives churches more leeway than other employers to hire and fire who they want.

The judge concluded that the job Collette held was "critical to the spiritual and pastoral mission of the church." While that might speak to Collette's high standing in the parish, the judge determined that it placed him within an exemption that churches have from some employee discrimination laws.

Kocoras wrote that the Supreme Court has "recognized the right of religious organizations to control their internal affairs," and that non-ordained employees can be considered ministerial if they are responsible for conveying a church's message, teaching the faith and carrying out the church's mission.

From helping carry out mass to playing music at church ceremonies, Collette's responsibilities as director of music and director of worship fell into those categories, Kocoras wrote in his April ruling.

Collette's attorney Kerry Lavelle, who had argued that Collette's role was not ministerial, said in a statement Wednesday that the Catholic Church has "chosen to stand behind its ministerial exception to discriminate against members of the gay community."

"That someone of (Collette's) commitment and ability is prevented from pursuing their career in this day and age is a sign of how far some institutions have to go in accepting all members of society, and demonstrates that there are still many individuals who are not granted equal rights in the workplace," Lavelle said.