Press Release

Catholic school defends right to choose its principal Lawsuit defies 9-0 Supreme Court decision protecting school’s right to choose religious leaders

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

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New York, N.Y. – St. Anthony School and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York went to a Manhattan court today to defend their right to choose a school principal without government interference, against a lawyer who says protecting Catholic schools may aid “potential jihadists.”

The lawyer suing St. Anthony’s claims that the school is not allowed to hire the principal who would best promote the Church’s teachings. Yet religious schools already won this fight five years ago in EEOC v. Hosanna-Tabor, when the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously protected a Lutheran school’s right to choose teachers free from government meddling.  Becket won that case, and the precedent it set applies even more clearly here since St. Anthony’s hires its principal to be a religious leader who directs the religious education of the entire school and regularly leads students in prayer.

“It is important that church-sponsored schools like St. Anthony’s be able to ensure that each student receives the best education in math, science, art as well as the Catholic faith,” said Mercedes Lopez Blanco of the Archdiocese of New York. “To do that, we must have the freedom to choose leaders – without government interference – who are dedicated to our mission.”

As principal of St. Anthony’s, Joanne Fratello was a religious leader responsible for leading students in daily prayer, inviting and accompanying them to Mass, ensuring their curriculum and teachers expressed Catholic faith, and hosting them at religious ceremonies. When the school believed she was no longer effective at advancing the school’s Catholic values, St. Anthony’s simply did not renew her contract.

The attorney suing the school on behalf of Ms. Fratello has publicly accused the Catholic Church of being “dangerous to society,” hypothesized about Russian Orthodox churches “indoctrinating children with Stalinist communism,” and attacked the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision as an aid to “potential jihadists.”

“Talk about shameless. This blatantly anti-Catholic lawsuit is nothing but a scheme to take money away from needy New York schoolkids and put it in an attorney’s pockets,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at Becket, the non-profit religious liberty law firm, who argued the case for St. Anthony’s and the Archdiocese. “Not only are these attacks uncalled-for, they are ignorant. The Supreme Court has already said that the Church, not the State, should pick religious leaders.”

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals is likely to announce its decision in the case by summer.

For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, please contact Melinda Skea at or 202-349-7224.Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.


Becketis a non-profit, public-interest law firm dedicated to protecting the free expression of all religious traditionsand has a 100% win-rate before the United StatesSupreme Court.For over 20 years, it has successfully defended clients of all faiths, includingBuddhists, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, and Zoroastrians(read more).