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Firing Gay Teachers: It’s a Fight Religious Schools Can’t Win

Firing Gay Teachers: It’s a Fight Religious Schools Can’t Win

Religious schools up and down the country are firing teachers for entering into same-sex marriages, but it’s a fight they can’t win.

The most recent case to make the headlines is that of former vice principal of Eastside Catholic school, Mark Zamuda. He was fired in December of last year from the Seattle, Washington school after the school became aware of the fact that he had married his same-sex partner in July. The administration cited church doctrine and the fact that Zmuda had violated an employment contract that stipulated Zmuda must adhere to church standards of morality.

In an intriguing twist, Zamuda is now claiming that the Catholic school’s officials suggested he might be able to keep his job if he were to get a divorce:

“But I also thought another teaching they were against was divorce. I’m a little shocked that was even on the table to have me keep my job. They also offered for me to have a commitment ceremony if I were willing to get a divorce.”

The school’s lawyers are denying this claim. Said the school’s lawyer in a comment to MSNBC:

“He’s a wonderful man, he performed beautifully, and we’re going to give him the finest recommendation we possibly can to help him secure a position,” said Mike Patterson, attorney for Eastside Catholic. But Zmuda “understood that his contract required him to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church, and he knew that he was not doing that because of his marriage.”

Nevertheless, Zamuda was popular at the school and his firing has driven several protests from students and their parents who feel Zamuda should not have been let go.

Reports the Seattle Times:

Zmuda’s termination from the school of 935 students drew global attention and triggered a sit-in by Eastside Catholic high-school students and at other area Catholic schools as well as ongoing rallies and protests.

[...]

On Saturday, they held a rally outside the offices of the Seattle Archdiocese and are planning other events, including something they are calling nationwide “Z” day, asking students and others across the country to wear orange, one of the school colors, on Jan. 31 in solidarity with Zmuda.

“We will continue to write letters, lobby Church officials, and use any other means at our disposal to respectfully work toward our ultimate goal of changing the discriminatory attitudes regarding homosexuality in the Church,” local students said in a statement.

The school, perhaps realizing this issue is not going to go away, has reportedly said that it is keen to work with students to create a positive outcome. It will need to.

Teaching, as a profession, is damned hard, high pressured and a vocation rather than just a job. There have now been stories of so many teachers being dismissed for being gay that it’s impossible to count them all — yet every one is a tragedy.

To be sure, religious schools are entitled to hire and fire whomever they want. That is, on the provision that they are not taking public money. There we run into a slight problem.

A number of religious schools are being propped up by the state, especially heavily religious conservative states where the state administration feels it can exploit voucher programs for a variety of purposes such as to advance creationism or anti-LGBT religious views. Complaints have been made about this kind of practice, and it seems now only a matter of time before some sort of a lawsuit is brought.

Eastside has not done this. However, there’s also the fact that private religious schools benefit from their close relationship with local religious authorities, from whom they, like Eastside Catholic, take their moral instruction. In this way religious institutions are capable of morality policing and discriminating while still benefiting from religious tax exemptions which are thought to cost America about $71 billion a year. That’s a fact that is unlikely to be tolerated going forward as concerns grow that the line between Church and State is becoming more and more blurred.

There’s another clear way in which religious schools are losing this fight. They have forgotten about the pupils with whom these teachers form relationships. As we’ve seen in the case of Eastside Catholic, that’s not a good idea.

When a school fires a much admired teacher for no other reason than their entering into a same-sex marriage, or for being in a same-sex relationship, they are denying the student body a relationship with an educator whom they have come to trust and respect. This is a lesson in unfairness, and with national statistics showing that young people are increasingly more likely to think anti-gay discrimination is wrong, it could be the very thing that drives them away from religion in its entirety.

There is of course an argument to be made that schools have every right to impose reasonable restrictions on their staff. However, more and more these kind of restrictions are being recognized as unreasonable. If religious schools want to continue operating, these kinds of policies are also unsustainable and should be abandoned.

Ultimately, while it is the individual teachers who are suffering now, it is religious institutions who will lose out and further marginalize themselves if they continue fighting their battle against gay marriage by firing teachers (who probably would count themselves as religious) for no other reason than their private, legal relationships.

For Eastside Catholic, the matter certainly isn’t over yet: the school’s drama coach, Stephanie Merrow, just got engaged to her long-term female partner. What will the school do now?

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Photo credit: Thinkstock.

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115 comments

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12:11PM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

Haytham religious schools have certain guidelines that teachers cannot disregard and one is if they are married it must be to someone of the opposite sex and no judge can rule against them as it would violate the constitution, there is nothing in the constitution about same sex marriages so go away

Firing Gay Teachers: It's a Fight Religious Schools Can't Win
I'm sure that there will be those who will not agree with me but I'm not in the slightest bothered about the sexuality of a teacher, their skin colour, their gender or their dress sense for that matter, I simply want a teacher who is competent at carrying out their duties. If they are not then they should be dismissed. Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/firing-gay-teachers-its-a-fight-religious-schools-cant-win.html#ixzz2yBMpvn4U

4:50PM PST on Jan 13, 2014

As I was starting to say:
C'mon, don't just wring your hands, EVERYbody can do SOME of these things! to help the Cause of the Catholic High School Students, which is GAINING MOMENTUM...

And, Sorry, I thot I had given the ADDRESSES to write to earlier in this thread, but I had posted them elsewhere. HERE THEY ARE:
His Holiness, Pope Francis
Apostolic Palace
00120 Vatican City
-
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 Fourth Street NE
Washington, DC 20017
USA
-
Archbishop Peter Sartain
710 9th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
USA
[To find out more about this and other social justice topics of interest to the LGBTQ and Allied communities, go to the Social Outreach Seattle website at www.socialoutreachseattle.com.]
======
Note: In writing to the Pope, ALL International Postage is $1.10.
[Here is the address of the Pope IN ITALIAN - classy!]
Pope Francis [do not write, as I almost did, "Francis I", since there is no Francis II yet!]
Palazzo Apostolico
Vaticano 00120
Citta' Vaticano [do not write "Rome" or "Italy" - Vatican City is ITS OWN COUNTRY!]

Remember, $1.10 postage on ALL INTERNATIONAL Mail, like to the Vatican -
33 cents, current POST CARDS within U.S., letters are MORE within U.S.

4:36PM PST on Jan 13, 2014

Meanwhile, see CROSS-REFERENCE Care2 News Item:
Vatican Denies Pope Is Open To Same-Sex Civil Unions.
http://www.care2.com/news/member/911530155/3699892

"The Vatican has denied Italian media reports that Pope Francis might be open to legal recognition of same-sex civil unions.... the head of Italy's Democratic Party, announced... that [it] would introduce civil union legislation.""

[Hey, maybe if Archbishop Sartain of the Seattle Archdiocese didn't cause the firing of Eastside Catholic High School administrator Mr. Zmuda, maybe the POPE did it!]
This news is the opposite, of course, from what some of the Students expected - but it hasn't SLOWED THEM DOWN in the slightest!
A COALITION is being formed, of the Students of SEVERAL Catholic High Schools, and Gay Groups... "gaining momentum".
From, again, Seattle Gay News, some things YOU can do to help:
Write a letter to Sartain and tell him how you feel about the issue. [Address given previously.]
Join Z-Day {Jan 31st} and wear orange {the School Color} and post your photos to #KeepMrZ2013 Facebook and Tumblr pages.
Watch and share this Social Outreach Seattle video explaining Z-Day at
http;//www.youtube.com/user/SOSeaVideo LOVE IS LOVE Z Day 2014.
========
[You may also want to write POPE FRANCIS HIMSELF,
as well as the USCCB - the {ultra-politically-reactionary}
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Addresses to both, as well as to Archbishop Sartain, given previously.]
C'mon, don't just wring your h

4:12PM PST on Jan 13, 2014

LATEST from the 935 Eastside Catholic High School Students, who CONTINUE THEIR PROTEST. From Seattle Gay News:
Stephanie Merrow, the SECOND teacher at the High School to "come out" as engaged to her partner, is allowed to keep her job - she is only a PART-TIME instructor, and apparently didn't have to sign that "contract". She announced her engagement to a Woman, on a call-in radio show, and the next day got "hugs from her students" who wanted to look at her engagement ring! and that's ALL that happened...
Sister Mary Tracy, the School Principal, and a Nun, has COME OUT ON THE SIDE OF THE STUDENTS. Her hands in the firing, were TIED. Official Statement from Sister Mary Tracy: "I look forward to the day when no individual loses their job because they are married to a person of the same sex."
School Administrator {over the School Principal - Church can't have these uppity WIMMIN running things!}, a Man, has taken Sick Leave because of "extreme stress" - not available to talk to. How convenient!
The Lawyer for the School, who had a lot to say at first, has shut the f... up......
Archbishop Sartain, has claimed he had NOTHING TO DO WITH THE FIRING. [I.e., NOBODY did it! Mr. Nobody...] Other than that, Sartain has had NOTHING TO SAY...
Alumni of the school have weighed in from the four corners of the globe, support the STUDENTS, demonstrate together with them, support their efforts financially, etc...
Out of the darkness, comes a New Day! indeed...

3:50PM PST on Jan 13, 2014

See if you can watch the following Video without tears!
[By the way, parts of the Video were shot inside of an LGBTQ-friendly CHURCH in my Seattle neighborhood, that, altho an Atheist - a "spiritual Atheist" - I feel very comfortable going to on occasion! The name of the Church given in the Video Credits is All Pilgrims.... Macklemore himself is a Seattle native...]

The FAMILY MORALITY and the MORAL STANDARDS of this Video, and of the Young People for whom this Video is their RALLYING CRY - the MORALITY of this Video, is FAR, FAR GREATER THAN THAT OF ANYTHING THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS COME UP WITH IN MILLENNIA - or the Evangelical Churches, or the Russian Orthodox Church, or the Vatican, or the USCCB {United States Conference of Catholic Bishops} - and similar Religious Entities....
The Young People are TEACHING THEIR TEACHERS; LEADING over and above their supposed "Leaders" and "Moral Guides and Instructors"...... how IRONIC!
======
MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS - SAME LOVE feat. MARY - YouTube
www.youtube.com/watch?v=hlVBg7_08n0

Oct 2, 2012 ... Same Love feat. Mary Lambert on iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/same
-love-feat.-mary-lambert/id543948282 We support civil rights, ...
======
Birth, Death, Love, Family Acceptance, Marriage - this Video shows the REAL Family Values that False Religions SMEARS with its BIGOTRY -
Reminds me of a Sign I saw at a Gay Pride Parade:
"HATE IS NOT A FAMILY VALUE".

10:30PM PST on Jan 12, 2014

Fire the gay teachers but keep the pedophilia priests. Hypocritical much?

7:29AM PST on Jan 12, 2014

This is such a sad story. Good teachers are hard to come by. The students are definitely getting an education though about what Christianity is not.

6:56AM PST on Jan 12, 2014

thank you

6:40PM PST on Jan 11, 2014

Thank you.

3:35PM PST on Jan 11, 2014

I'm sure that there will be those who will not agree with me but I'm not in the slightest bothered about the sexuality of a teacher, their skin colour, their gender or their dress sense for that matter, I simply want a teacher who is competent at carrying out their duties. If they are not then they should be dismissed.

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