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School counsellor’s employment contract ended after her same-sex relationship was discovered

A guidance counsellor at a catholic school, with more than 40 years of ministerial duties, has had her employment ended after she informed the school she had a wife. 

Lynn Starkey, a former guidance counsellor at Roncalli High School, informed the school that she was in a same-sex relationship and was married to a woman. The school permitted Starkey to continue working until the end of her contract but stated that her same-sex relationship went against the teachings of the church and also violated her contract terms. All employees at the Christian school were required to uphold church doctrine at work and at home. 

Starkey approached an Employment Tribunal to sue the Catholic school, saying she was subjected to a hostile work environment and discriminated based on her sexual orientation. 

On 29 July the Court decided the school had the right to dismiss Starkey as her relationship violated the teachings of the church. 

Senior counsel, Luke Goodrich, at Becket Law Group said:

“Religious groups have a constitutional right to hire individuals who believe in their faith’s ideals and are committed to their religious mission. Our justice system has consistently ruled that the government cannot intrude on a religious organisation’s choice of who will pass on the faith to the next generation.”

The school has found itself in the same situation in the past after it put on administrative leave another lesbian guidance counsellor at the school. The Catholic church argued that it can discriminate under ‘ministerial exception’ outlined by a Supreme Court ruling in 2020.