This week students returning to school at two of Indianapolis’s most prominent catholic schools were greeted by an LGBTQ advocacy group on their way in. The group, Shelly’s Voice, was formed after Shelly Fitzgerald was placed on administrative leave from her guidance counselor job at Roncalli high school because of her same-sex marriage. Her story gained a lot of attention and even resulted in a meeting with the daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
- Since then a second Roncalli counselor has claimed discrimination for the same reason.
- The Archdiocese of Indianapolis severed ties with Brebeuf Jesuit over its refusal to fire a gay teacher.
- Cathedral fired a teacher because of their same-sex marriage (in part to maintain their recognition from the Archdiocese)
- Brebeuf announced its plans to appeal the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’s decision to the Vatican
One would assume an appearance on Ellen would be the peak of any local news story but in this case, it was just the beginning. Brebeuf’s appeal could have far-reaching implications as the Vatican is the highest governing body of the catholic church.
The implications go beyond a ruling from the Vatican. Indianapolis has a unique brand of school choice that allows students and families to use vouchers to attend private religious institutions which brings in different types of students to these schools than one would expect under a traditional system. This fact has sparked a debate about whether or not a school that receives public money has the right to discriminate. Indiana catholic schools have received millions of dollars through the Choice Scholarship Program and some people contend that supersedes their desire to hold employees to strict religious teachings.
Between daytime television, overarching precedents for the catholic church, and the national school choice debate, Indianapolis and it’s unique educational landscape has created a catalyst for a serious debate over private school rights vs LGBTQ rights.