Mark Zmuda, a vice-principal at the Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish (eastern edge of the broader Seattle suburb communities) says he was fired [Guardian article]
after he refused to replace his same-sex marriage with a civil union. He is suing on the basis that the school claimed to be an equal opportunity employer (including, at the time, specifically with regard to sexual orientation) and Washington state does accept same-sex marriages. He says he moved to Washington and took the job relying on all of this. The school admin claims they found gay marriage
, specifically as contrary to Catholic teaching and therefore couldn't keep him. (Zmuda says he
, as a Catholic, needs marriage just as much as anybody else could.) There are conflicting claims about whether that doctrinal interpretation was solely that of the school, or of the area archdiocese. If I understand this correctly, the last part matters to the legal case because Zmuda has also asserted that the archdiocese encouraged the school to dismiss him.
Been hearing about this case on and off for some time, but now that it's a lawsuit I wonder about something. Why do organization claims of following religious doctrine get boiled down to a "freedom of speech" question and not a freedom of religion question? I'm just guessing, it may be related to the school's claim that they, and not the higher leadership, made this decision about how to interpret Catholic doctrine in this case. At any rate, they seem to define the interpretation
of doctrine or scripture (not sure if it's technically both) as a matter of free speech. (I wonder if they might need another Citizen's United-style ruling to establish that specific hiring organizations get to do that, exactly? But we can totally set that aside for now.)
This just reminds me a lot of the New Mexico case where Elane Photography tried to claim that it was using artistic techniques to present weddings and therefore, documenting same-sex marriages would somehow deny its freedom of speech about the appropriateness of gay marriage. In both cases, I end up thinking: But it's particularly a religious position that they are claiming to speak about in both cases, so why not freedom of religion?
The Catholic school gets any exemptions it has from taxes -- I assume they have some? -- for being a religious
institution. Unless people are going to argue that any organization should be allowed to deny anyone for any reason, why not take the more precise defense that has perhaps some
basis in established practice. Practices such as granting religious institutions certain tax and/or regulatory breaks already, whatever the rest of us may think of that... (Or are they actually afraid if they mention it, those will be challenged too? Hmmm, I actually wonder now about that.
) Why not say it's a question of freedom of religion? Is there some hard-nosed legal maneuver here? Or is there some broader PR move turning the rhetoric of 'Legalization of same-sex marriage devalues different-sex marriages' somehow into one of 'If we have to notice same-sex marriages exist now, then we will be irreparably silenced and ruined in the process.' ??
Has it already been established they cannot win by invoking freedom of religion as a defense? Elane reportedly tried that early on in New Mexico and then sort of stopped arguing the point on freedom of religion, before it even reached the State Supreme Court. And I know the New Mexico Supreme Court appeared to hint one might not win if they only said religion. But then, that was just NM. And it really seems to me this odd sort of phrasing keeps popping up. I rather suspect it shows they don't have much basis for a defense.
... And can you just hear the righteous jab from Zmuda's attorney in this quote? (My bold added.)
Zmuda’s attorney Richard Friedman said their motion misrepresents the complaint. “No one is saying they can’t discriminate against gay people. If they had said, ‘we are going to adhere to church doctrine, and not hire gay people, people on birth control, or people who get divorced,’ they can do that,” Friedman said. “What they can’t do is tell people they don’t discriminate, and have people rely on that representation, and then change it on them. You have to treat employees fairly.”