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South Euclid Catholic school suing the city over anti-discrimination law

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Posted at 10:34 AM, Apr 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 14:13:53-04

SOUTH EUCLID, Ohio — The Lyceum, South Euclid's Catholic education school, is planning to sue the city of South Euclid over its anti-discrimination law. The city council unanimously passed the law in April of 2018. The law forbids the denial of rights based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. But The Lyceum claims this law violates the 1st Amendment.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit legal organization is hosting the news conference on behalf of The Lyceum. It says the ordinance threatens the Catholic school with fines and even jail time for operating within its faith.

In April 2018, the South Euclid City Council passed an anti-discrimination ordinance that was modeled after similar ordinances in other municipalities.

The lawsuit, in essence, forbids the denial of rights based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It also protects ethnic groups, same-sex couples, public assistance recipients, military personnel etc. The ordinance also created the Civil Rights Review Board, which serve as the clearinghouse for civil rights-related complaints. To date, not a single complaint has been filed with the board, according to the city. And, therefore, the board has not met.

The Lyceum is suing because it and the Alliance Defending Freedom believe the ordinance infringes upon their religious rights.

There is some contention whether there is a "religious exemption." The ordinance, however, does include the following provision: “Nothing contained in this chapter shall be deemed to prohibit a religious or denominational institution from preferring to employ an individual of a particular religion to perform work connected with the performance of religious activities by the institution.”

The crux of the lawsuit centers around the provision in the ordinance which forbids the printing or publishing of any discriminatory notice or advertisement relating to employment or a person’s patronage of the business.

The Lyceum has a new set of policies that it wants to implement, which would require that students and staff abide by the church’s teachings and the school’s philosophy on same sex marriage and gender identity. However, because of this ordinance and the city’s alleged unwillingness to tell them whether they would be in violation of the ordinance, they have been unable to put this new school policy into effect.

A city official said: “We’re ready to manage this and deal with it. We believe it’s the right thing to do to protect the lives and freedoms of all people."

Equality Ohio gave the following statement: “Over 200 cities (including 22 localities here in Ohio), 21 states, and D.C. have laws like this ordinance on the books. South Euclid’s ordinance does not infringe on anyone’s free expression of religion. On the contrary, religious organizations are expressly protected in this ordinance to ensure they can continue to operate freely in accordance with their First Amendment rights.. Multiple courts, including the Supreme Court in Masterpiece, have upheld the constitutionality of including LGBTQ people in nondiscrimination laws. South Euclid's nondiscrimination ordinance is no different, and we are grateful that they have chosen, with a unanimous vote of city council almost a year ago, to ensure their community is welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ people. Alliance Defending Freedom is attempting to use this lawsuit to intimidate LGBTQ people. We will not be intimidated.”