A Hillsborough County judge has dismissed a case filed by benefactors against the Academy of the Holy Names that claimed the school is misrepresenting itself as Catholic by embracing “woke culture.”
Judge Paul Huey issued a verbal ruling to dismiss the suit on Nov. 17. The case was brought by Barbara and Anthony Scarpo, who sought a refund on a $1.3 million pledge made in 2017 after alleging the school breached its contract by misrepresenting itself as Catholic.
While Huey’s written decision may not be available for several weeks, the Florida Catholic Conference responded to the decision in a support brief.
“The needle that Plaintiffs are attempting to thread is so small as to be non-existent. Obviously, this Court cannot determine whether or not co-Defendant is ‘providing a Catholic Education’ solely ‘using neutral principles of secular law,’ but instead would be required to apply and decide religious doctrine,” FCC wrote in the support brief.
The school, as well as the FCC, filed petitions in late September to dismiss the case.
The Scarpos filed suit against the Academy and the FCC in June, accusing the school of breaching its contract by falsely promising a Catholic education. In the suit, the couple demanded the school rescind the $1.3 million pledge as well as the plaintiffs’ prior tuition payments for their two daughters who previously attended the school. According to the complaint, the tuition amounted to more than $50,000.
“The Academy lost its way, distancing itself from mainstream Catholicism, and embracing new, politically correct, divisive and ‘woke culture’ where gender identity, human sexuality and pregnancy termination, among other ‘hot button issues,’ took center stage,” the complaint reads.
The pair also sought a court order prohibiting the Academy from advertising itself as a “Catholic” school and halting accreditation from the state Catholic Conference.
“Under the guise of ‘Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion,’ and protecting its diverse students, the Academy chose to guilt its White students into believing that they were guilty merely because of their skin color or because their parents could afford to pay tuition,” the complaint reads. “Rather than view racism and hatred through the lens of a Catholic education, Defendants chose to provide only one perspective — you as students should feel guilty if you are White and your parents can afford our tuition — with or without financial aid.”
However, in both motions to dismiss, the Academy and the FCC argue the separation of church and state provided under the First Amendment prohibits government courts from “intruding” into disputes over religious beliefs or doctrine.
“The nature of plaintiffs’ claims, by definition, would require the Court to determine what constitutes ‘a Catholic education consistent with the standing of main-stream Catholicism,’ and indeed what constitutes ‘main-stream Catholicism,” the FCC wrote.