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Catholic School Fires Lesbian Teacher. Administrators Could Face Jail Time

A Catholic high school in Columbus Ohio reportedly fired a teacher because she publicly homosexual with a domestic partner. Now, it seems that a Catholic school should have a right to do that, right?

The problem is that the city of Columbus has an ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor to discriminate against an employee for their sexual orientation. The ordinance does not have a religious exemption and those who run afoul of the ordinance could face up to one year in prison or pay a $1,000 fine.

One of these things has to change. Either the Catholic school can continue to be Catholic or it must be forced to accept a publicly homosexual teacher or the ordinance must change to allow for religious exemptions. Now, lawyers have gotten involved and this could be ugly.

The firing of a gay physical-education teacher from a Columbus Catholic high school would be a violation of a city ordinance if a complaint were filed and investigators determined the dismissal was based on her sexual orientation.

Carla Hale of Powell, who worked at Bishop Watterson High School in Clintonville for 19 years, said she was fired in March after an anonymous parent complained that an obituary for Hale’s mother listed the name of Hale’s female domestic partner.

The dismissal caught attention after students and other supporters started an online petition on Monday to seek her reinstatement. The petition at change.org had gathered more than 9,000 signatures by early yesterday evening.

The Catholic Church considers gay relationships harmful and wrong, and a contract between the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus and the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators says teachers can be terminated for immorality or serious unethical conduct.

Hale’s attorney, Thomas Tootle, said her March 28 dismissal notice refers specifically to her relationship as the basis for her termination. The diocese and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have declined to comment.

A Columbus city ordinance makes it a misdemeanor for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on sexual orientation. City law also states that an employer cannot have a policy that discriminates based on sexual orientation. Those who are found guilty could face up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Hale, a Methodist, has filed a grievance against the diocese based on terms of the contract. If that fails, Tootle said, they could turn to the Columbus ordinance.

Napoleon Bell, executive director of the city’s Community Relations Commission, said the city law has no exemption for religious organizations.

Tootle said courts have allowed religious exemptions to such laws if the employee is in a “ ministerial” position conveying the religious organization’s message.
The Supreme Court ruled last year in the Hosanna-Tabor case that a religious school has the right to decide who is and who isn't in a "ministerial" position. The Court granted wide latitude to religious schools on this but I expect this will be the battleground in future fights.

One of the possibly horrific things happening here though is that administrators at this school could face prison time for being Catholic if it's found that they violated the city ordinance. I don't actually see how one argues that they didn't break the ordinance but the question will turn on the constitutionality of the ordinance. This could be a big one folks. Keep your eyes open.

Here's a videotaped interview with the teacher. She says that she was very private about her homosexuality but she admits to publishing the name of her "domestic partner" in the newspaper.:


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22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why does everyone keep making this mistake? She was not fired for her orientation. She was fired because she was bearing witness to things explicitly contrary to the Church, and thus to the responsibilities of her teaching position.

I know straights who do this too, not by publicly being in said relationships but by publicly agitating for them. The actual orientation has nothing to do with it.

Maureen said...

If she was hired with the understanding that she should lead a life exhibiting Catholic values and signed such a contract, there is nothing wrong with this termination.

Steve said...

In some regards, this is a positive thing. Sooner or later we're going to have to see Catholics face incarceration (not fines or settlements, or anything else, but real, actual jail time) for defending the truth. Better now than after a few more years of cultural decay.

The other lesson here is that if Catholic institutions want to remain Catholic and effectively execute their mission of Catholic faith and intellectual formation, they should probably employ, you know, actual Catholics.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

She wasn't fired due to sexual orientation, but for violating her contract. The school could/would/should also fire heterosexual faculty for publicly admitting to fornication, and/or having a "domestic partner" of the opposite sex.

Dave P. said...

It's very likely that the judge will find some reason why Hosanna-Tabor doesn't apply, or else decide to ignore the ruling entirely.

Fr. Peter said...

They will have to argue that they are not firing for the orientation but for the violation of a morals clause which I suspect was present. Seems she tried to avoid scandal but was unsuccessful.

Thom, OFS said...

Unless any of you were present in her bedroom, you can't use the "morals" clause.

Anonymous said...

You can if she publically claims an illegitimate relationship. The term partner is understood to mean partner in a relationship. It would be the same if a woman said her partner Bill. The mere term "partner" causes scandal because it implies relations outside of marriage.

Steve Cavanaugh said...

I agree a Catholic entity should be able to have staff that exemplify the Catholic way of life. However, if the same school has divorced and remarried staff, or heterosexual staff who are living together without benefit of wedlock, etc. and only enforces the contract against this woman I would have to question whether the motivation is to have a godly staff or simply the desire to maintain good public relations.

The teacher who was fired "published" her relationship in an obituary for her mother, which a parent saw and decided needed to be brought to the attention of the school authorities. This strikes me as not only kicking someone when they are down, but being more concerned about appearances than substance.

And look where that has landed the US church over the past 30 years.

elm said...

They are what they are. Hopefully the Church will gain a backbone in the future and be who they are, no one near our children who do not practice what they preach...this goes for heterosexuals as well as any other stripe who leads a double life. Is this teacher Catholic? If so she has bigger fish to fry than worrying what the school admin. thinks. There is a final Judge. Rather a milestone be hung around your neck than lead a little one to sin.

Lynda said...

The issue in a specific case is the contract of employment - and this can and will normally contain more than just the personalised written contract drawn up for the individual teacher. Was it understood by the parties that there was an obligation on the teacher to teach, and behave in a way which is compatible with, and supportive of the growth in their students of, the Catholic Faith, as central to the mission of the school? The wider issue is the freedom and duty of Catholic schools to ensure that their teachers are teaching and living in a way that is not incompatible to their responsibility to help sustain and develop their students in the Faith.

Anneg said...

High school kids know WAY more of what goes on than anyone ever notices. If you're curious, ask a few leading questions, then sit back, listen and be quiet. Or eavesdrop, like when driving to activities in the car. I bet the kids know.
Second, I think Hosanna-Tabor will apply. But, I agree. Shouldn't Catholic schools hire Catholic teachers, or at least those who subscribe to all our morals and beliefs?

Mary De Voe said...

The problem is that the city of Columbus has an ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor to discriminate against an employee for their sexual orientation. "Sexual orientation" and unnatural practice is not the same thing. "Sexual orientation" an accident of birth ends where indulgence in lesbian acts of free will begin. The City of Columbus needs to go with the Ten Commandments. There is no law against homosexual orientation. The Sixth Commandment prohibits homosexual behavior. Homosexual behavior violates the Sixth Commandment and scandalizes minor children who have not reached the age of informed sexual consent and judgment. If she says she does it, she should be man enough to own up to it.

Mary De Voe said...

"Tootle said courts have allowed religious exemptions to such laws if the employee is in a “ ministerial” position conveying the religious organization’s message." The homosexual pratitioner is a walking example of demon worship and this guy is talking about "ministerial" positions. We need to start talking about separation of church and demon state.

Dave P. said...

I think Hosanna-Tabor will apply.

I hope so. But like I mentioned before, gay rights seem to always trump everything else, including precedent, however recent it is. This is also one area in which the City of Columbus may be willing to defy the courts, should they rule in favor of the school.

call me Lot said...

"Why not" publicly reject the Church's teachings on marriage? "Why not" undermine the teachings of the Catholic faith at a Catholic school? Why not, unless, perhaps, you actually believe what the Church teaches?

The ex-teacher claims to be a very "private" person, but it was a very public act, to publish her name and the name of her "partner" in a newspaper. She decided ("why not?") to publish the name of a woman, whom she calls her "partner", in an obituary, along with the names of her family members and their spouses. The homosexual "partner" is identified in exactly the same way as the names of spouses of family members. Clearly, this is not a "business partner."

Does this woman really believe that "probably none of the kids" knew what kind of lifestyle she has been living? (I think many kids are much more perceptive than she thinks they are. It would be interesting to ask a few of the kids in that school if they were really surprised). But they all know now, now that the ex-teacher has made it a matter of the public record.

John B said...

As Steve said above:
"The other lesson here is that if Catholic institutions want to remain Catholic and effectively execute their mission of Catholic faith and intellectual formation, they should probably employ, you know, actual Catholics."

It continues to amaze me how many Catholic institutions employ a significant number of non-Catholics. Hiring faithful Catholics would go a long way towards preventing this problem.

Athelstane said...

"However, if the same school has divorced and remarried staff, or heterosexual staff who are living together without benefit of wedlock, etc. and only enforces the contract against this woman I would have to question whether the motivation is to have a godly staff or simply the desire to maintain good public relations."

Your point would be valid, Steve, if these things became publicly known like this woman's lesbian relationship. The school can act only on what becomes known.

But when it does become known...certainly they need to be consistent.

Patrick said...

They singled out the gay teacher, while other employees who flagrantly flout religious teaching get a free pass.

Persecuting the gays has turned out to be a really bad idea in the past 10 years. What can they be thinking?

The RC Church is hurting itself terribly in this country because Americans beleive in fairness and the Church is selective in its punishments.

Howard said...

"The diocese and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have declined to comment." And there's the problem. Break out the bagels for an interfaith prayer breakfast, or have a funeral for a well-known politician who supported abortion and "gay marriage", and you wouldn't be able to beat the bishops off with a stick. They *love* all those empty little ceremonies -- as long as they don't have to teach, govern, or sanctify. You know: do their jobs.

The Catholic Church is in bad shape in this country, with self-identified Catholics indistinguishable from the population as a whole on issues of faith and morals and mostly absent on Sunday mornings. Of course, it's just a coincidence that "The diocese and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have declined to comment." Right?

And I Have a Bridge to Sell You said...

She said that the students probably didn't even know she was living a homosexual life?

Yeah. Right.

ProLIFEmommy said...

Sad to say, I echo your sentiments, Howard. Look at what's happening at NY's McQuaid High School next month. Fr. Salmon--a Jesuit---is allowing 2 gay teens to come to their prom AS A "COUPLE." And WHAT have we heard from Cardinal Dolan or the USCCB on this??? *crickets* *crickets* crickets*
SILENCE breeds CONFUSION.

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