A court in Missouri has ruled in favor of a church's right to hire and fire its ministers based on their personal lifestyles. The ruling stems from a court case involving a female minister who was removed from her position because of her same-sex marriage.
According to Jeremiah Galus, a legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, churches have the right to determine the employment status of their staff members. In addition, they are free to terminate the contracts of those whose lifestyles are not consistent with Christian teachings.
"This ruling rightly reserves the integrity of churches and religious institutions," he told the Catholic News Agency. "If churches are forced to employ people who do not follow their religious teachings, they will no longer be able to minister consistently or freely in accordance with their faith."
"If an employee is undermining or publicly opposing the church's teaching, the church is within its constitutional rights to terminate employment," Galus added.
In his statements, the legal counsel was referring to the lawsuit filed against the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in 2014. As noted by the Church Militant, the St. Francis Xavier Parish hired Colleen Simon in 2013 as the director of its social ministries. During her job interview, Simon told the church's director of religious education that she was a lesbian.
However, as she was working in the parish in 2014, the 816 Magazine of the Kansas City Star ran an article on her and her legal marriage to her same-sex partner. After the story was publicized, Bishop Robert Finn, who was head of the diocese at that time, fired her. This then prompted Simon to file a lawsuit against the diocese.
The diocese argued that as mentioned in the constitutional law, courts cannot dictate how churches in the country manage its internal operations, particularly when it comes to hiring and firing its ministers.
The court then ruled in favor of the church and Judge Kenneth Garrett III of Jackson County said that siding with Simon's lawsuit would put the court in the middle of a sensitive issue involving the Church's practices.
"It is impermissible for the government to interfere in religious affairs," Travis Weber of the Center for Religious Liberty said about the case. "If it did, we would have an authoritarian state that would abolish religious freedom."