Church pantry worker fired for being lesbian sues Catholic diocese

The Kansas City StarJuly 17, 2014 

— A Kansas City woman fired from a Catholic food pantry in May sued the Kansas City-St. Joseph diocese and Bishop Robert Finn Thursday, saying that her supervisors knew that she was a lesbian.

Colleen Simon alleged in her suit that she had told two priests at St. Francis Xavier Church that she was married to another woman, and they had informed her that her sexual orientation would not be a problem.

However, an April article in The Kansas City Star’s 816 magazine mentioned her marriage to the Rev. Donna Simon of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church. Within a month, Colleen Simon had been fired at Finn’s direction, Colleen Simon alleged.

“Defendant Most Rev. Robert J. Finn … aided, abetted, incited and compelled the actions of the diocese, and participated in the ordering of her termination,” the suit alleged.

She claimed that the church fraudulently encouraged her to take the food pantry position at St. Francis Xavier in July 2013, knowing the diocese had no intention of keeping its commitments to her.

Colleen Simon alleged in her suit that she mentioned her sexual orientation to the priest at St. Francis Xavier during a job interview in May 2013. The priest purportedly “was nonplussed, and expressed no objection to Ms. Simon’s sexual orientation or her relationship with Donna,” the suit alleged.

When another priest replaced that pastor several months later, Colleen Simon said she notified him of her sexual orientation. Had he objected she wanted to look for work elsewhere. Her health insurance needs, as a cancer survivor, were particularly pressing, she alleged.

According to the suit, Simon purportedly told this to the priest in January:

“I need to let you know that I’m a lesbian, I’m married,” the suit recounted. “My wife is the Lutheran pastor at St. Marks Church.”

Simon alleged that the priest “looked surprised.”

“He said, ‘Oh, OK. It’s OK,’” the suit alleged.

Simon alleged she was fired at a meeting in May, about two weeks after the 816 article appeared.

The suit seeks unpaid wages and fringe benefits, compensation for emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney’s fees.

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