It took a lawsuit, but the city of South Euclid, Ohio has finally clarified whether a local ordinance threatens The Lyceum, a Catholic school, with fines and jail time.
Thankfully, the city has made it clear that The Lyceum has the right to hire employees that share its beliefs. This is great news! And it’s why Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) dismissed its lawsuit against the city.
From start, The Lyceum opposed this ordinance, which adds “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes under the law.
Right away, the school recognized that this ordinance likely posed severe threats to its religious freedom.
As a Catholic school, The Lyceum holds to the beliefs that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and that God created human beings in his image – as male and female. The school simply asks its employees to hold to these beliefs as well. This shouldn’t be too much to ask. Hiring employees that disagree with the mission and values of the school would harm both the school and the students it serves.
That’s why The Lyceum was concerned when this city ordinance was proposed. And that’s why it took action. Representatives from The Lyceum attended city council meetings to voice their concerns about the ordinance. But the city refused to engage with the school.
Before it passed the ordinance, the city council even removed an exemption that would have provided some protections for religious entities.
Once the ordinance was passed, The Lyceum even reached out to the city on several occasions to receive clarity on whether the school would be punished under the ordinance for operating consistently with its Catholic beliefs. They certainly had reason to be worried. The penalties for violating the ordinance would have threatened the very existence of the school and threatened its administrators with jail time.
The Lyceum also submitted a public records request to the city, which it twice illegally ignored.
After all of this – the city removing the religious exemption, providing no answer to The Lyceum’s concerns, and illegally refusing to reply to a public records request – The Lyceum had one choice left. ADF filed a lawsuit on behalf of The Lyceum against the city in April.
The city’s long-awaited response is a relief – not just for The Lyceum, but for all of us as well.
After all, if The Lyceum does not have that freedom to operate consistently with its beliefs and mission, what could that mean for freedom for the rest of us?