The Indiana Supreme Court has upheld a decision from a Catholic school over their decision to fire a teacher because of his same-sex marriage.

At the direction of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, Joshua Payne Elliott was discharged from his position as a world language and social studies teacher at Cathedral High School, a position he held from 2006 to 2019.

Cathedral were reportedly aware of Payne-Elliot’s marriage to his husband, a teacher at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, renewing his contract through May 2019 to include the 2019-2020 school year.

However, the archdiocese demanded both Cathedral and Brebeuf fire both men “due to the teacher being a spouse within a civilly-recognized same-sex marriage”.

When Brebeuf refused, the Archbishop Charles C. Thompson issued a decree that the school would no longer be recognised as a Catholic institution. Cathedral yielded to the archdiocese, firing Payne-Elliot.

In a letter defending their decision, Cathedral said the archbishop “made it clear that Cathedral’s continued employment of a teacher in a public, same-sex marriage would result in our forfeiting our Catholic identity due to our employment of an individual living in contradiction to Catholic teaching on marriage.”

“Cathedral has been a Catholic school for the past 100 years and our Catholic faith is at the core of who we are and what we teach at Cathedral,” the letter added, “to remain a Catholic Holy Cross School, Cathedral must follow the direct guidance given to us by Archbishop Thompson and separate from the teacher.”

In their ruling, the four participating justices said “religious freedom” protected by the First Amendment to the United States constitution “encompasses the right of religious institutions ‘to decide for themselves, free from state interference, matters of church government as well as those of faith and doctrine.'”

Kathleen DeLaney, Payne-Elliot’s attorney, condemned the “decision’s movement towards immunity from civil liability for religious institutions that discriminate against their employees” in an email to the Indianapolis Star.

“The Court did, however, expressly allow Mr. Payne-Elliott to file a new complaint and start the case anew,” she continued.

Payne-Elliot said he was “disappointed” by the ruling and made it “clear” that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis “ordered the school to breach my valid, legal employment contract – a contract that the school had renewed three times after the school was aware of the relationship.”

In a press release, archdiocese lawyers lauded the decision, describing it as a “commonsense ruling in favor of our most fundamental rights”.

Attorney Luke Goodrich wrote: “Religious schools will only be able to pass down the faith to the next generation if they can freely receive guidance from their churches on what their faith is. We are grateful the court recognized this healthy form of separation of church and state.”