Colleen Simon, a Missouri church worker filed a lawsuit against a Catholic diocese in Kansas City this week, claiming she was wrongfully fired from her salaried position as a pastoral associate after her marriage to another woman – Donna Simon, was mentioned in a local newspaper.
The lawsuit, filed in Jackson County Circuit Court in Independence, Missouri, against the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-Saint Joseph and embattled church leader Bishop Robert Finn, claims fraud and violation of Missouri law.
Colleen Simon’s same-sex marital status was known and accepted when she was hired to run a food pantry and oversee other social outreach efforts, but was used as a reason to fire her after it was publicised.
“I trusted the diocese on the promise they made to me, and the assurance that they made to me was broken: that my marriage would not affect my employment,” Simon told the Guardian. “I’m deeply saddened that they did not follow through with that and chose to let me go.”
Simon, a mother of 2, was legally married in Iowa in May 2012 to a female pastor at a Kansas City Lutheran church. She told diocese officials of her same-sex marriage before they hired her and was assured it was not an issue. However, on May 14 she was fired and was told it was because of a local newspaper article that mentioned both her food pantry work and her same-sex marriage, the lawsuit states.
“The reason for your involuntary separation of employment was based upon on irreconcilable conflict between the laws, discipline, and teaching of the Catholic Church and your relationship – formalized by an act of marriage in Iowa – to a person of the same sex,”
Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph, letter of dismissal
The actions of both the diocese and Finn are already the subject of scrutiny. Finn was convicted in 2012 of failing to alert authorities to child pornography found on the church computer of a popular priest. Finn was sentenced to two years probation and critics have called for his ouster.
There was no immediate comment on the lawsuit from the diocese or Bishop Finn.
The lawsuit by Simon comes just a few months after Finn and the diocese settled litigation filed by parents of children who were victimized by Father Shawn Ratigan.
Ratigan was sentenced to 50 years in prison last year for taking sexually explicit photos of several young girls.