Indiana high court rules Civil Rights Commission overstepped authority in food allergy case

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's Civil Rights Commission overstepped its authority when it determined that a home schooling group discriminated in denying a substitute meal to a girl who asked for one because of a food allergy, the state Supreme Court has ruled.

The court ruled that the commission can intervene only in complaints pertaining to education, and neither the disability discrimination claim nor one claiming retaliation against the girl's family met that standard, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/1zUXWIy).

Elizabeth Bridgewater claimed the now-defunct, 11-family Fishers Adolescent Catholic Enrichment Society discriminated because it didn't provide an alternative meal for her then-15-year-old daughter at a 2008 dinner-dance where chicken was served. The girl was allergic to chicken.

After Bridgewater filed a discrimination complaint with the Civil Rights Commission, the nonprofit suburban group expelled her family.

The commission ruled in 2012 that the group should pay the family $2,500 in damages and should not retaliate against members who file complaints. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the commission's ruling last year.

The society disbanded in 2010 because of the court case, said the Thomas More Society of Chicago, which represented it in court.

"Unfortunately, it took years of effort and hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney time in order to stop this outrageous government overreach," Peter Breen, vice president and senior counsel for the Thomas More Society, said in a statement.

An attorney representing the Bridgewater family declined to comment on the case.

A telephone message seeking comment was left for a commission spokesman Wednesday.


Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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