CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46) - Fired following a Facebook post. A former Teacher of the Year at Charlotte Catholic is now suing the school after he said he was let go for publicly announcing his same-sex marriage.
FOX 46 Charlotte spoke with the man who said he still wants to go back to teaching at the school.
"I was angry," Lonnie Billard explained.
Billard said it was no secret at Charlotte Catholic High School that he was in a committed relationship with his partner, Rich.
"For all these years, Rich and I were a known entity. We were a gay couple in that environment. They knew it and no one ever said a word," Billard explained.
A lawsuit filed on Wednesday alleges Billard was fired in 2014 after a Facebook post announced his intentions to marry his partner.
"He had come to all the plays I directed. The kids knew him, the parents knew him, the administration knew him and, in fact, the administration would be sure to say, 'Make sure to bring Rich, make sure to bring Rich,'" Billard said.
The Charlotte Diocese Code of Ethics says "Church personnel will conduct themselves at all times in a manner that is consistent with the teachings and precepts of the Roman Catholic Church."
This lawsuit alleges the school violated Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act, calling this sex discrimination. The Diocese told FOX 46 Charlotte it has not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit and regardless, does not discuss ongoing litigation.
Statement released from The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights:
"Bill Donohue comments on a gay teacher who sued a North Carolina Catholic school claiming discrimination:
Every prospective Catholic school teacher knows, or should know, what the house rules are. This means, at a minimum, that no one is entitled to claim victim status when he purposely violates them and is subsequently terminated for doing so.
Lonnie Billard knew when he "married" his boyfriend, making it public on his Facebook page, that Charlotte Catholic High School, his employer, would object. He sued when he was fired and is now seeking back pay and benefits, punitive damages, and compensatory damages for emotional distress. He is represented by the ACLU, an organization which is at war with the Catholic Church.
The suit is bogus on several counts. The First Amendment protects religious liberty, allowing religious schools to practice the tenets of their faith. The lawsuit does not cite a violation of state law, and that is because no North Carolina law was broken.
The lawsuit relies on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but this is without foundation: sexual orientation was not a protected class when the bill was passed, and amendments by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to include sexual orientation are judicially unresolved.
"I know that the Catholic Church opposes same-sex marriage," says Billard, "but I don't think my commitment to my husband [sic] has any bearing on my work in the classroom." [Note: husbands are men and wives are women, so if Billard's partner is his husband, that would make him his wife, and no one really believes that to be true. The Catholic League does not tolerate fake news.]
The Catholic Church also opposes racism and anti-Semitism. Does it not have the right to fire those who make bigoted remarks against whites, blacks, or Jews? Billard does not decide what the rules are for Catholic schools, and no one forced him to teach at one.
Billard and the ACLU are suing to make a cultural statement. Their bigoted attack on the autonomy of Charlotte Catholic High School shows a contempt for tolerance and diversity. They don't have a moral, or a legal, leg to stand on."