Charlotte Catholic High School didn’t violate law by firing gay teacher, appeals court rules

A federal appeals court ruled that a local Catholic high school didn’t violate the law when it effectively fired a gay teacher.

There are new developments this week in the case surrounding Lonnie Billard’s firing from Charlotte Catholic High School.

Billard had taught English and Drama at the school since 2000, even after retirement. But the school stopped using him as a substitute teacher in 2014 after he posted on Facebook that he was marrying his male partner.

“The school just decided peacefully we’re just not going to call him back as a substitute. No ill will, it’s just if you’re gonna teach at a Catholic school and pass on the Catholic faith to the next generation, you need to be supportive of Catholic Church teachings,” said Luke Goodrich, an attorney for Charlotte Catholic High School.

Billard sued in 2017 saying he was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation. Last year, a federal district court agreed with him, but on Wednesday, an appeals court reversed that decision.

RELATED: Court of Appeals hears case of gay Charlotte Catholic teacher fired from job

Billard’s attorney pointed out that the school didn’t argue for a “ministerial exception” in court and said that the law changed while the case was ongoing. That happened in a Supreme Court ruling on a case known as “Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

“That decision came out after [the judge’s] order finding that Lonnie was not a minister under the prior supreme court ruling. So part of what the 4th Circuit is doing here is saying no, we have to apply this most recent supreme court ruling to Lonnie’s facts,” said Luke Largess, Billard’s attorney.

He can still appeal for the 4th Circuit to hear the case again with a full panel of judges, and it could go to the Supreme Court. Largess says they’re still deciding whether to do so.

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