A Catholic high school’s decision to oust a popular longtime teacher who is gay amid a deadly pandemic has sparked anger from some in the school community who feel he was targeted for “being married to a man.”
Alter Principal Lourdes Lambert told the Dayton Daily News that their decision to not renew the veteran teacher’s contract was made by officials at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after someone sent a “concern” about the teacher directly to the office of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr.
Lambert told the news outlet that she was not trying to duck responsibility, saying, “I’m the Archdiocese, too.”
“She said she has not been told who the concern came from, but confirmed it had nothing to do with any incident between the teacher and students at the Kettering school,” the Dayton Daily News reports.
She said the teacher, an Alter graduate who has taught at the school for more than 20 years, will be finishing out this school year as students continue to learn from home, and the contract non-renewal is for 2020-21.
“It’s a very unfortunate circumstance for the teacher and the Alter community,” Lambert said. “Some things are taken out of our hands as an Archdiocese-owned school.”
The Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati schools require teachers to sign an annual “teacher-minister” contract that includes an agreement to refrain from any conduct that is “in contradiction to Catholic social doctrine or morals.”
The contract includes examples like “cohabitation outside marriage, sexual activity out of wedlock and same-sex sexual activity,” among several others. The contract also says promoting such conduct as being acceptable also is a violation.
“It has been brought to my attention from several trusted sources that my 11th grade high school honors English teacher [name removed] has been fired from his job at Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering, Ohio for being married to a man,” wrote former student David Beck on Facebook. “He’s been married since 2016, one year after marriage equality passed…Supposedly some misguided soul found his marriage certificate and brought it to the attention of the Archdiocese. How convenient that he is fired now, during the pandemic, as to sweep it so easily under the rug. If these reports are true, this is blatant discrimination, and we need to band together to stop it.”
“I remember [teacher’s name removed] as a wonderful, kind teacher with a sense of humor and a creative spirit,” Beck wrote. “He led the high school paper as well as Kairos, the senior retreat. He should not be fired for his marriage, which, let us remember, is guaranteed as a human right by the Constitution. I attended catholic school for 13 years (explains a lot, right?), and I can attest that Jesus would not approve of Alter High School or the Archdiocese’s treatment of [teacher’s name removed]. On the contrary, Jesus embraced everyone and only taught love. This is the kind of discrimination I write about creatively in film (in fact the parallels between Mr. [teacher’s name removed] story and “Backup Plan” and my upcoming feature are uncanny)…I almost thought that we were evolving beyond such drama, but unfortunately that is not the case.”
“Let’s stop this bigotry which will only continue if we allow it,” Beck added. “It’s high time that the Archdiocese of Cincinnati atone for their sins.”
According to the Dayton Daily News:
Several Alter High School graduates and supporters of the teacher argued on social media against the removal this week, with one calling the moving hypocritical and another saying she would stop donating to the school. Others praised the educator’s ability as a teacher, while one said the teacher displayed “Jesus’ teachings of love and acceptance.”
The school posted a statement on its Facebook page Monday, citing “a great deal of online and social media discussion” on the issue, and saying the school must “adhere to Archdiocesan policy.” The post later was taken down.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ruled Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. But according to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, no Ohio law prohibits employment discrimination based on a person’s status as gay or lesbian.
Jennifer Schack, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese, said the church “values all of our teachers,” but she would comment only generally about personnel matters.
“Our Catholic schools expect teachers and staff to be witnesses to the teaching of the Catholic Church in both word and deed. Public witness is a critical part of Catholic education,” Schack said. “These expectations are clearly articulated in our teacher-minister contracts.”
Schack provided the Catholic Church’s official catechism, or teaching, which calls homosexual acts “acts of grave depravity,” and says “under no circumstances can they be approved.” The following passage of the church’s catechism says of people with “homosexual tendencies” that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” but that the church calls them not to act on their feelings, instead living a life of chastity.