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Indiana Supreme Court Strikes Down Overreach by State's Civil Rights Commission
Thomas More Society Wins Appeal for Catholic Homeschool Group

Contact: Tom Ciesielka, 312-422-1333, tc@tcpr.net

INDIANAPOLIS, Jan. 6, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ -- Today, the Thomas More Society won an appeal on behalf of Fishers Adolescent Catholic Enrichment Society in the Indiana Supreme Court. The small Catholic homeschool group from Fishers, Indiana, had been disciplined by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission for alleged retaliation that resulted from a disagreement that began over a chicken dinner.

"In trying to control the affairs of a small religious homeschool group, the Indiana Civil Rights Commission far overstepped its authority," declared Peter Breen, Vice President and Senior Counsel for the Thomas More Society. "Unfortunately, it took years of effort and hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney time in order to stop this outrageous government overreach. We're glad that the Indiana Supreme Court has now ordered the Commission to stop its harassment and dismiss this case."

Writing for the Supreme Court majority, Chief Justice Brent E. Dickson held that the Indiana Civil Rights Commission exceeded its authority by interfering in "an inter-group squabble" that did not relate to education, the only area in which the Commission can exercise its oversight. The Supreme Court held that the Commission should have dismissed the claims against the Catholic Enrichment Society as meritless and remanded the case, ordering the Commission to grant the Catholic Enrichment Society's motion to dismiss.

The precipitating event took place in 2008, when a Catholic Enrichment Society parent requested a steak dinner for her daughter who planned to attend a dinner-dance at a contracted venue. The volunteer mothers who led the Catholic Enrichment Society decided that the parent should bring a meal for the child instead of having a steak dinner, when the rest of the participating children and families would receive chicken. Because the venue was charging by attendance, the volunteer mothers did not lower the ticket price for the child. The next day, on behalf of her daughter, the parent filed a complaint with the Indiana Civil Rights Commission, alleging that FACES had discriminated against her disability. After several other incidents involving the parent, the volunteer mothers of the Catholic Enrichment Society expelled that parent and her family from the eleven-family group. The parent then filed a further complaint with the Civil Rights Commission for retaliation.

The legal onslaught brought to bear by the government of the State of Indiana rapidly depleted the limited resources of the Fishers Adolescent Catholic Enrichment Society. The Thomas More Society took on the legal defense pro bono, at no charge to the families in the group. The group itself eventually ceased operations, as the families decided not to continue operations under the conditions imposed by the Civil Rights Commission.

"This was a case that the Indiana Civil Rights Commission had no business taking on. In doing so, the Commission usurped parental rights, destroyed a small religious group, and wasted taxpayer resources prosecuting a frivolous and petty complaint that it should have instead immediately rejected," concluded Breen.

Read the January 6, 2015 Indiana Supreme Court decision in FACES v. Bridgewater here.

About the Thomas More Society
The Thomas More Society is a not-for-profit, national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Based in Chicago, the Thomas More Society defends and fosters support for these causes by providing high quality pro bono legal services from local trial courts all the way to the United States Supreme Court.