Catholic school teacher fired for marrying outside the rules

Less than a week before Marquis LaFortune was supposed to marry her fiance, the principal of the downtown Catholic high school where she worked as an English teacher called her into his office to warn that a “scandal” was looming.

The scandal, the deacon informed the bride-to-be, was her coming marriage.

LaFortune married anyway, but now she’s the one who feels scandalized. Fired from Central Catholic High School for the Nov. 22 wedding, the 25-year-old has filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and wants to sue the school.

The reason for her termination turns on a theological tenet. According to Catholic doctrine, participants in a marriage must be an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. LaFortune told the principal that her fiance had been divorced — a proceeding not recognized by the Catholic Church.

The deacon was concerned with whether the first marriage of LaFortune’s fiance, Benjamin Stakes, had been declared invalid by a Catholic tribunal and thereby annulled. His concern, however, did not sit well with LaFortune, who refused to resign from her job or seek an annulment — a process that could reach to Rome and take more than a year.

“I would have resigned if I’d felt like I’d done something wrong,” LaFortune said last week, adding that the conflict put a strain on her wedding preparations.

“As a general matter, religious institutions are free to engage in religious discrimination in employment,” said Ira C. Lupu, a professor of law at the George Washington University Law School. “The question is, are they applying the policy consistently? I think the point about consistency is very important.”

Theocracy sucks under the best of circumstances.

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