An Indiana Catholic school that is under fire for terminating a gay teacher received over $1 million in public funding in 2018, according to a report reviewed by HuffPost. The school said it fired the teacher so that it would not be forced to cut ties with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.
Cathedral High School announced its decision to fire the employee in a letter it posted on its website Sunday. Though the institution is private and religious, student scholarships to the school are heavily subsidized with public money through the state’s school voucher program. Over 230 students received $1,136,258 in taxpayer dollars to attend the school during the 2018 - 2019 school year, according to a report from the Indiana Department of Education. In total, over the past three years, the school has received $3,457,075 through the voucher program.
Indiana’s voucher program, called the Choice Scholarship Program, provides low and middle-income students with publicly funded scholarships to attend private schools. But the program does not require that participating schools prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexuality when it comes to students or employees. Public schools, on the other hand, are beholden to more rigorous anti-discrimination rules, of which religious institutions are exempt ― even those receiving public funding.
Indeed, Indiana’s voucher program is hardly unique in allowing such discrimination. A previous HuffPost investigation from 2017 found that at least 14 percent of religious schools in voucher programs across the country maintain policies that explicitly discriminate against LGBTQ staff and students. Another previous analysis found that not a single voucher program prohibited discrimination based on gender identity or sexuality.
Across Indiana, over 36,000 students participate in the state’s voucher program. It cost $161,445,099 in 2018, per the state department of education report.
In a letter, leaders from Cathedral High School explained their decision to terminate the educator because the teacher was in a public, same-sex marriage. According to the school, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis would have cut ties with it had the teacher not been fired. If this happened, the school could no longer refer to itself as Catholic, and it would lose its nonprofit status.
The decision was made after “22 months of earnest discussion and extensive dialogue with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis about Cathedral’s continued Catholic identity,” according to the school.
The school’s president did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for further comment.
Just last week the Archdiocese of Indianapolis cut ties with another school over the same issue, per The Indianapolis Star. That school, Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, had decided to continue to employ a gay teacher against the Archdiocese’s objections. However, Brebeuf is less closely tied to the Archdiocese and will not lose its nonprofit status as a result of the move.
Brebeuf also receives public funding through the state’s school voucher program. In the 2018-2019 school year, it received $375,583.
The Archdiocese of Indianapolis told the Indianapolis Star that it does not oppose homosexuality, but same-sex marriage.
“To effectively bear witness to Christ, whether they teach religion or not, all ministers in their professional and private lives must convey and be supportive of Catholic Church teaching,” the Archdiocese told the newspaper, referring to Brebeuf.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has championed school voucher programs. While these programs are currently operated at the state level, she has worked to put federal funding behind private school choice efforts. In 2018, DeVos said that federal funds should not flow to schools that discriminate against LGBTQ students, reversing an earlier position on the issue.