A gay man who directs the choir at St. Victoria Catholic Church in Victoria has retained the attorney who represented Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe after the athlete alleged that the team was intolerant of gays.
The choir director claims he lost his job when he married his long-time partner.
His attorney, Clayton Halunen, recently negotiated a $100,000 settlement in Kluwe’s case against the Vikings.
Halunen concedes that churches are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, but he maintains they cannot discriminate because of an employee’s marital status.
Halunen has said he plans to sue the church and Archbishop John Nienstedt. In a statement, Nienstedt said the church’s employment policy states that an employee can be immediately discharged if his or her public conduct is “inconsistent with the faith, morals, teachings and laws of the Catholic Church.”
Note: Citing separation of church and state, courts have generally given religious institutions great leeway on discrimination issues. Recent court decisions have expanded the “ministerial exception” that lets religious institutions choose who carries out their ministry without concern over any possible discrimination claims.
The question in this case will be whether or not a choir director falls within the ministerial exception.