“We can’t tell you. Figure it out for yourself. Go find yourself a lawyer.”
That’s what the city of South Euclid, Ohio, essentially told The Lyceum – a classical Christian school – when it inquired into whether a city ordinance would affect its policy of hiring employees that share its devout Catholic beliefs.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) attorney Christiana Holcomb represents The Lyceum in a lawsuit filed earlier this month challenging South Euclid’s ordinance, which would force the school to employ individuals whose actions conflict with the mission and beliefs of the school. Failure to comply means the school would have to pay substantial fines that would threaten its existence. And school administrators could even face up to 60 days in jail.
Holcomb appeared on a Fox News interview with Shannon Bream in April to discuss this case and its implications.
As Holcomb points out in the interview, The Lyceum did its due diligence. In fact, the school took a variety of measures to avoid litigation.
- When the ordinance was initially proposed, school staff and parents showed up to city council meetings and expressed concerns regarding its potential effect on The Lyceum’s mission and hiring practices.
- The Lyceum then sent letters to South Euclid, asking whether this new ordinance would indeed apply to The Lyceum and be used to infringe on the school’s religious freedom.
The Lyceum wanted to know, and deserves to know, if it could face crippling fines and jail time just for operating consistently with its faith. After all, this government compulsion has no place in a tolerant society.
It doesn’t seem that it should be too difficult for a city to answer a question regarding a law it enacted. Shouldn’t city officials know how to properly apply their own laws?
The South Euclid Community Services Director has claimed that The Lyceum is free to hire and teach its students in “a manner that they see best and meets the vision and their goals of their school in any way that they wish.”
And that is certainly the constitutional response.
But if it really is this simple, why didn’t South Euclid just say so before?
Of course, the city’s silence proves this isn’t as simple as it would like us to believe.
The city’s refusal to communicate with The Lyceum puts the school in reasonable fear that the law will be enforced against them, despite the school’s abundant good-faith attempts to clarify how the law would be applied.
Not to mention the city also intentionally deleted a religious exemption to the law in order to specifically target faith-based groups. South Euclid is telling a distinctly religious school that it can’t peacefully live out its faith.
It is wrong to banish religious schools like The Lyceum from the marketplace of ideas simply for holding beliefs that don’t fall in line with the government-favored point of view. And, thankfully, we don’t have to wait to be punished or thrown in jail before we seek justice.
This is why The Lyceum is left with no other option but to address the city’s silence by proceeding to federal court to ask a judge to protect its religious freedom.