Prizm News / April 3, 2019 / By Bob Vitale

The Lyceum’s motto is “Fiat lux,” which means “Let there be light.” (Photo from Alliance Defending Freedom video)

‘When you say you can’t discriminate against one, you are actually discriminating against others,’ the school’s dean once said in defending his desire to discriminate.

By Bob Vitale

A South Euclid prep school that says it will not tolerate “public defiance” of Catholic teachings filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday to strike down a local ordinance outlawing discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Lyceum, which has seven full-time teachers and 53 students from the 6th grade through high school, claims in the lawsuit that its religious freedom is curtailed by South Euclid’s law, which covers employment, housing and public accommodations. The school says in the lawsuit that it fears repercussions over its refusal to hire employees or accept students who disagree with Catholic doctrine against marriage equality and transgender identity. 

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“Religious schools have a right to operate consistently with their beliefs, but the city’s…ordinance jeopardizes this right—and threatens to crush The Lyceum,” the school’s lawyers said in announcing the lawsuit. 

It was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland. 

Equality Ohio, which has backed LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances across Ohio, said the South Euclid law doesn’t infringe on anyone’s religious expression. 

“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 ordinance states. 

More than 200 localities—including 22 in Ohio—have laws that prohibit discrimination based on people’s gender identity, gender expression or sexual orientation. Twenty-one states have LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws as well, but Ohio is not among them. 

“Multiple courts…have upheld the constitutionality of including LGBTQ people in nondiscrimination laws,” Equality Ohio said in a written statement. “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.” 

The vote was unanimous in April 2018 when Euclid City Council members amended their proposed ordinance to match state law and the IRS in defining religious organizations.  

A Catholic priest and people affiliated with The Lyceum called the change an attack on their religion. 

Mark Langley, the school’s academic dean, said he was being discriminated against because he couldn’t discriminate against others. 

“When you say you can’t discriminate against one, you are actually discriminating against others,” he told council members last year. “Do you see the logic in that?”  

“No,” Council member Ruth Gray responded.  

The Lyceum is represented in its challenge to the South Euclid ordinance by the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian group that fights marriage equality and nondiscrimination laws across the United States and fights efforts across the world to decriminalize same-sex relations and do away with laws requiring sterilization for transgender people. 

The Alliance Defending Freedom is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. 

“Alliance Defending Freedom is attempting to use this lawsuit to intimidate LGBTQ people,” Equality Ohio said. “We will not be intimidated.” 

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.