Friday, May 23, 2014

The Toll of Morals Clauses

Virtually all employees of Roman Catholic parishes, schools, and other institutions in the United States are working under contracts that contain morals clauses which require the employee, whether Catholic or not, to conform to the teachings of the Church and not speak out publicly against them, even in their personal lives and even when off duty. And the toll of those who have been fired or forced out for following their consciences rather than those contracts continues to grow.

This list is a work in progress and I would invite those who have knowledge of other cases (or updates to the cases listed below) to use the comment field. For the purpose of this article, we are focusing on paid lay employees, not people who have been dismissed from volunteer positions in the Church or priests or religious. Please supply references to mainstream news sources to document those cases.

Behind these public names are many many other Catholic church employees we will never know about. How many gay and lesbian employees are afraid to marry their loving partners because they can't afford to lose their jobs? Worse still, how many single women have terminated an unexpected pregnancy in order to keep their employment? And how many are demoralized and afraid to speak up for justice because the institutional Church, in practice, is not the liberating and merciful place Pope Francis wishes it to be? We need to work towards the day when our church workers and teachers don't have to trade their freedom of expression and association for a paycheck.

Name: Jeffrey Higgins
Diocese: Washington (DC)
Date of termination: November 2015
Case: Higgins had begun a part-time job as a music minister at Mother Seton Roman Catholic Church in Germantown, MD, in June 2014. The Catholic University graduate never hid his homosexuality, nor did he publicize it, out of respect for church teaching. That job came to an end when some parishioners saw Higgins and his husband at a local theatre and then learned of their marriage from the husband's Facebook page. They complained to the pastor, Rev. Lee Fangmeyer, who asked Higgins to resign despite the fact that he was performing his job well. Higgins refused and was fired. Higgins appealed his termination to the Archdiocese of Washington but the appeal was denied. A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Washington said that Higgins had "entered into a same-sex marriage, in public violation of Catholic teaching" and that this "violated the agreed upon terms of his employment in the archdiocese."
Source: Washington Post, 12/31/2015; Washington Blade, 12/23/2015

Name: Margie Winters
Diocese: Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)
Date of termination: June 2015
Case: Ironically, Winters had been quietly married to her lesbian partner virtually the entire time she served as a well-respected Director of Religious Education at Waldron Mercy Academy. Winters and her wife, Andrea Vettori, had tied the knot in Boston in 2007, before same sex marriage became legal in Pennsylvania. Her eight-year academic career ended when a parent got wind of her marital status and complained to the school. Winters was asked to resign and when she refused to do so, she was fired. Principal Nell Stetser praised the educator's "amazing contributions" to the school but said the decision was made "to sustain the Catholic identity of Waldron Mercy Academy." Philadelphia's Archbishop Charles Chaput added fuel to the fire when he released a statement praising the termination, saying "I'm very grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the Church." Many other parents have protested the school's decision and a Stand With Margie page has been set up on Facebook. Meanwhile, Vettori has written a letter on behalf of the couple to Pope Francis asking for an audience when he is in Philadelphia. She explains the couple's long association with the Sisters of Mercy and pleads for the pontiff to "intervene on our behalf and countless other faithful Catholics so that we may not be condemned to live a life exiled from a Church that we so love and want to serve."
Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/9/2015, WPVI TV News, 7/13/2015, NY Daily News, 7/9/2015

Name: Fr. Warren Hall
Diocese: Newark (New Jersey)
Date of termination: May 2015
Case: Fr. Hall was removed by the Archdiocese of Newark from his position as director of campus ministry at Seton Hall University after he posted a picture on his Facebook page supporting the pro-gay marriage "NO H8" campaign. Fr. Hall, who subsequently revealed that he is gay although committed to his celibacy vow, told the media he was told by the Archbishop that he had a "further agenda" and that was why he was being removed from campus ministry. He has since requested a six-month leave of absence from the Archdiocese to contemplate his next move. Meanwhile, Fr. Hall has written a letter to Pope Francis, made public on Religion News Service, asking the Pope, when he comes to the United States, to "find time to listen to the challenges faced by LGBT people, especially those who are Catholic and wish to remain a part of the Church" and he makes a special plea on behalf of fellow educators and ministers: "Good teachers are being fired, pastoral and compassionate priests and religious women are being silenced and accept it out of fear of being disciplined by their superiors, and good, faith-filled people are leaving the Church as they witness all of this happening."
Source:, 5/15/2015, Outsports, 5/26/2015, Religion News Service, 7/20/2015.

Name: John Murphy
Diocese: Richmond (Virginia)
Date of termination: April 2015
Case: Murphy, a lifelong Catholic, thought he had found the right job when he was hired as Executive Director of a Catholic assisted living facility, Saint Francis Home ("The Place Where Love Never Grows Old", according to the facility's motto). He says he was told by the president of the home's board of directors that his relationship with his husband, retired social worker Jerry Carter, wouldn’t be a problem. He served in his new job for a week and his new employee paperwork was forwarded to the diocese for processing. At that point, two representatives of the Diocese of Richmond called Murphy to tell him he was fired because his marriage goes against church doctrine. He has received no severance pay. Murphy, who is 63 years old, hasn't been able to find a job since, and he and his husband are relying primarily on Social Security. In September 2015, Murphy filed a discrimination claim with the EEOC. Sam Dibert Sr., who had been vice president of Saint Francis Home's board and served on it for more than 20 years, resigned following the diocese's decision to terminate Murphy. Murphy himself sums it up well, "People being discriminated against because of who they love, when it has nothing to do with their performance, is outrageous."
Source: Associated Press/WTOP, 10/13/2015, WRIC/KSN, 10/14/2015

Name: Matthew Eledge
Diocese: Omaha (Nebraska)
Date of termination: April 2015
Case: Eledge had been an English teacher and speech coach at Skutt Catholic High School since 2010. In 2014, he became engaged to his same-sex partner, Elliot Dougherty. When he let the school administration know of his plans to marry, he was told that his contract would not be renewed for the next term and that if he told the students, he would be fired immediately. There were no complaints about Eledge's teaching. In fact, the Omaha World-Herald reports that the speech team Eledge coached "won the state Class B speech championship for the fourth year in a row." Speaking for the Archdiocese of Omaha, Deacon Tim McNeil explained that all teachers are required to sign a contract that includes a code of conduct that forbids same-sex marriage. When Skutt alumni found out about the termination, they mounted a petition in support of Eledge that has already garnered over 100,000 signatures. However, while Eledge is grateful for the support he has received, he will not be returning to Skutt. He has been offered and has accepted a position in the Millard Public School system.
Source: Omaha World-Herald, 4/7/2015, Omaha World-Herald, 5/6/2015

Name: Tyler McCubbin
Diocese: Des Moines (Iowa)
Date of termination: April 2015
Case: McCubbin had been working as a substitute teacher and volunteer track coach at Dowling Catholic High School since September 2014. The school's president made McCubbin an offer for a full-time teaching position, but later revoked it based, McCubbin says, on his sexual orientation. Bishop Richard Pates gave reporters a different spin on the case, saying McCubbin wasn't denied the job because he's gay, but due to the openness of his sexual orientation. Meaning that McCubbin had posted in the social media that he was engaged to a man, and that turned up on the background check when he received the job offer. "What's so shocking is in an institution where they preach tolerance and love and respect for everyone, no matter what your background is, they don't uphold to those teachings," McCubbin says. The school's decision has led to a flurry of protest. One alumnus, Sen. Matt McCoy immediately called for fellow alums to stop donating to the school, a Facebook page called "Dowling Catholic Alumni, Faculty, and Students Against Discrimination" has been set up, and 150 Dowling students, alumni and others staged a walkout over school officials' decision not to hire McCubbin.
Source: KCCI, 4/7/2015 and Des Moines Register, 4/8/2015

Name: Lonnie Billiard
Diocese: Charlotte (North Carolina)
Date of termination: December 2014
Case: Billiard taught theater and English at Charlotte Catholic High from 2000 to 2012. After he retired from full-time teaching, he continued to work for the school as a substitute teacher. That ended when Billiard announced his plans on Facebook to marry Rich Donham, his partner for most of the years of his teaching career. He received a call from the principal informing him that he would no longer be called in to teach because his Facebook posting violated the agreement he signed not to publicly oppose church doctrine. Billiard's response: "It was fine when I was living with my partner. But I was wrong when I said we were getting married? The hypocrisy is ridiculous." And worse, the teacher says, is the message his termination sends to gay students at the school: "It sends the message that they don't matter."
Source: News & Record, 1/14/2015 and QNotes, 1/12/2015

Name: Jamie Moore
Diocese: St. Paul and Minneapolis (Minnesota)
Date of termination: September 2014
Case: Moore had served as music director at St. Victoria Catholic Church in Victoria, Minnesota, for 17 years. The parish asked him to resign under pressure from Archbishop John Nienstedt, following his marriage to his long-time partner, Garrett. Moore's pastor and employer, Rev. Bob White, sent a notice to parishioners explaining the circumstances of Moore's forced resignation and adding that "Jamie will be sorely missed, and we wish him every happiness." Moore consulted an attorney but then decided against suing the Archdiocese.
Source: KMSP/Fox 9/23/2014, Star Tribune, 9/29/2014

Name: Barbara Webb
Diocese: Detroit (Michigan)
Date of termination: August 2014
Case: Webb had worked as a chemistry teacher at Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan for nine years, producing students who scored an average of 4.0 on their AP tests and coaching a league winning volleyball team. Then she and her female partner decided to start a family through "non-traditional means". Aware that her pregnancy might cause scandal, Webb went to her employer to ask for a leave of absence until she had given birth. Instead the high school gave her two choices -- resign or be fired. If she resigned voluntarily and quietly, she would be allowed to keep her health insurance through May of the following year. Webb responded through her Facebook page that she "wasn't going to sign something that said I willing was leaving and their $4k of health insurance wasn't enough to buy my silence." She is now seeking legal counsel.
Source: MLive, 8/29/2014

Names: Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro
Diocese: St. Louis (Missouri)
Date of termination: July 2014
Case: Reichert and Gambaro were both teachers at Cor Jesu Academy, a Catholic high school for girls in Affton, Missouri...that is, until they got married in New York over the summer and the school received a copy of their joint mortgage application. At that point Cor Jesu asked the couple to resign, finding them in violation of the school's morals contract clause. In a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Reichert responded that "we understand that, as a Catholic institution, Cor Jesu has an obligation to ensure that its employees serve as Christian role models. However, because they do not enforce the witness statement in any other way, this is a blatant case of discrimination." Alumnae of the school have formed a group called Chargers Allies which says it is "committed to sharing the love of Christ with those who identify as LGBTQ in the CJA community." The group is exploring ways to support the couple and many alumnae have withheld donations to protest the school's treatment of Reichert and Gambaro.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 9/3/2014

Name: Colin Collette
Diocese: Chicago (Illinois)
Date of termination: July 2014
Case: Collette worked as director of worship at Holy Family parish in Inverness, Illinois, for nearly 17 years and prior to that, he worked for St. James Catholic Church in Bronzeville -- 23 years of service in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He did not keep his homosexuality a secret. His partner, Will Nifong, has been to mass at the church and even served as a lector occasionally. Then Collette, who began playing organ in Catholic churches when he was 12, has an M.Div. and even considered the priesthood, got engaged to his partner. When the Archdiocese found out, Cardinal George ordered the parish to request Collette's resignation. Collette refused to resign and was fired. The Archdiocese defended the decision saying, "Those that serve as Ministers of the Church, including worship ministers, are expected to conform their lives publicly with the teachings of the Church." According to Collette, the Church has a don't ask, don't tell policy. "I guess as long as you're willing to live the lie, you're safe," he said. "Actually, you're never safe. You live in fear every day someone is going to call the Cardinal or someone is going to turn you in."
Source: ABC 7 TV, 7/30/2014 and Chicago Sun-Times, 7/30/2014

Name: Flint Dollar
Diocese: Savannah (Georgia)
Date of termination: May 2014
Case: Dollar, who has a degree in church music, was a music teacher and band leader at Mount de Sales Academy in Macon, GA, for four years. The school knew Dollar's sexual orientation when it hired him. On May 1st, he signed a new contract to teach next year that was initially accepted by the school. Then Dollar posted on his Facebook page that he was planning to marry his male partner of six years this summer in Minnesota. "I was told that because I was planning to marry my partner that I would not be returning to Mount de Sales next year," says Dollar. His students and their parents have been protesting on his behalf. Dollar has since filed a lawsuit for sex discrimination against his former employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Dollar, who is now playing organ part time at a Presbyterian church, says getting his old position back is not the goal. "I don't want anybody else to have to go through what I've been through," he says.
Source: The Telegraph, 5/22/2014

Name: Kathleen Purcell
Diocese: Oakland (California)
Date of termination: May 2014
Case: Purcell had been a history teacher and career partnerships program director at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland for six years. Now the 62-year old former constitutional lawyer's teaching career has come to an end. Purcell handed in her signed teaching contract with two new paragraphs containing faith and morals clauses crossed out. She was let go. Purcell told the East Bay Express, "I found the language to be way out of line and totally unacceptable...I look at this contract, and it very much looks to me like an attempt to universally remove all employees from the protection of civil rights and labor laws. I cannot put my name to that. ... I spent most of my life trying to move forward civil rights."
Source: East Bay Express, 5/13/2014

Name: Richard Miller
Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio)
Date of termination: May 2014
Case: Miller was a Greenhouse instructor at St. Rita School for the Deaf, teaching about nature and gardening. Prior to that, he was an interpreter for the Hamilton County Educational Service Center. He is also a gay man who lives with his partner and the couple's six children. According to Miller, when he was hired at the Catholic school, he was open about his sexual orientation and was told "that what I did in my personal life was my business and I was being hired for my abilities and my capabilities as a teacher." Now the same director who was open to Miller has sent him a letter saying that his contract would not be renewed and "when I was asked why my contract would not be renewed his response was, it was just too risky." The decision was made in the wake of the new archdiocesan teacher contract with a very strict morals clause.
Source: WNKU, 5/22/2014

Name: Richard Hague
Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio)
Date of termination: May 2014
Case: Hague, who has taught literature and writing for 45 years in various archdiocesan schools, most recently Purcell Marian, is resigning rather than signing the new teacher contract with moral clauses that the 66-year old teacher views as a rejection of his gay colleagues and students. In a letter to Superintendent Jim Rigg, Hague wrote, "I simply cannot believe that Jesus would require me to condemn my friends, nor that Jesus would require me to report any of my colleagues who supported, even loved, gay persons, nor do I believe for a moment that Jesus would punish me for my earlier ministry," referring to his personal ministry to gay students over the years.
Source:, 5/21/2014

Name: Colleen Simon
Diocese: Kansas City-St. Joseph (Missouri)
Date of termination: May 2014
Case: Simon, a lesbian, was asked to resign from her job as coordinator of social ministries at St. Francis Xavier Church after her marriage to Rev. Donna Simon of St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church was publicized.
Source: Kansas City Star, 5/14/2014

Name: Molly Shumate
Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio)
Date of termination: May 2014
Case: Shumate, a 14-year veteran teacher in the Catholic school system, elected to end her career with the diocese rather than sign the new teachers' contract that contains a morals clause prohibiting diocesan employees from publicly supporting homosexuality. Shumate's son is gay.
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer, 5/9/2014

Name: Tarn Duff
Diocese: Billings (Montana)
Date of termination: February 2014
Case: Duff, an assistant softball coach at Billings Central Catholic High School, coached the school's team for free during their 2012 season and then was paid for her part-time work in 2013. However, in November 2013, Duff began a second part-time job as a clinic assistant at Planned Parenthood, performing clerical duties. Because of her new job, the school decided not to renew Duff's coaching contract. Concurring with the school's decision, Patrick Haggerty, superintendent of Catholic Schools in Montana, said that "being employed by Planned Parenthood, an organization that by its nature violates Catholic moral teaching by providing abortions, is not being a good role model to the children attending Catholic schools." Duff said she signed a contract but couldn"t recall if it contained a morals clause. "My mission was to share my knowledge of softball with (players)," the two-time All-American outfielder from Wenatchee (Wash.) Valley College said. "I never mixed that with my personal life, and never put my beliefs on them."
Source: Billings Gazette, 2/18/2014

Name: Shaela Evenson
Diocese: Helena (Montana)
Date of termination: January 2014
Case: Evenson, a literature and physical education teacher with nine years experience, was fired from her job at Butte Central Catholic School after the diocese received a note informing them of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Evenson, a lesbian, and her partner Marilyn Tobin are now the proud parents of a baby boy, and Evenson has filed a pregnancy discrimination charge with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Source: Missoulian, 3/26/2014

Name: Brian Panetta
Diocese: Toledo (Ohio)
Date of termination: January 2014
Case: Panetta had been working for Sandusky Central Catholic School as music teacher and band and choir director for five years. He was told to resign after school officials found out about his engagement to his partner, Nathan David. The two plan to get married next year. The school's president issued a brief e-mail statement thanking Panetta for his service and, surprisingly, linking to a letter from Panetta himself. In his letter to the school community, Panetta says candidly, "As a proud and gay Catholic, I understand the Church's teachings on marriage and agree that my engagement is a public statement of my position for marriage equality, which the Catholic Church does not yet support. I am hopeful to see change in the future..."
Source: Sandusky Register, 1/11/2014

Name: Orlando Jimenez
Diocese: Las Cruces (New Mexico)
Date of termination: January 2014
Case: Jimenez was a pianist at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in Las Cruces where he earned a small but steady income playing for weddings, quinceaƱeras, and other events. He also played for the Saturday Mass. When New Mexico allowed same-sex marriage in December 2013, Jimenez and his partner got their license. At that point, according to a statement released by Bishop Oscar Cantu, Jimenez was "at odds with the Catholic Church's teaching on marriage and sexuality" and "it was agreed he would only be involved in supportive roles and not in more public ministry, such as leading the singing." He is also no longer being allowed to play for private church events, even though his stipend on those occasions is paid by the families and not by the church.
Source: KVIA, 1/20/2014

Name: Mark Zmuda
Diocese: Seattle (Washington)
Date of termination: December 2013
Case: Zmuda, a gay man, was fired from his position as vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School after it was found out he married his longtime partner Dana Jergens. The termination sparked numerous demonstrations and sit-ins by Eastside Catholic students and other supporters. Zmuda has filed a lawsuit against the Archdiocese of Seattle and Eastside Catholic claiming discrimination, breach of implied contract and wrongful termination.
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 3/8/2014

Name: Michael Griffin
Diocese: Philadelphia (Pennsylvania)
Date of termination: December 2013
Case: Griffin had taught high school Spanish and French for 12 years at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, PA. He was fired when he informed the school's administrators that he and his same-sex partner, with whom he had been more than 12 years, had applied for a marriage license in New Jersey. Source: NBC, 12/9/2013

Name: Sean Houlihan and Natalie Ferland
Diocese: Boston (Massachusetts)
Date of termination: November 2013
Case: Houlihan and Ferland, two teachers at the Lawrence Catholic Academy in Lawrence, MA, who were dating each other and plan to get married in 2015, were fired when Ferland got pregnant. The couple's initial offer to resign was rejected. When they were terminated, they also lost their health insurance. They sued and eventually reached an agreement with the school whereby they would continue to receive a paycheck and health insurance through August 2014. The baby is due June 2014. The school also agreed to let their records show that they had resigned rather than been fired.
Source: Eagle-Tribune, 12/8/2013 and WCVB, 12/15/2013

Name: Tippi McCullough
Diocese: Little Rock (Arkansas)
Date of termination: October 2013
Case: McCullough is a 29-year-veteran English teacher who taught at Little Rock's Mount St. Mary Academy for 15 years. After she went to New Mexico to marry her partner of 14 years, Pulaski County deputy prosecuting attorney Barbara Mariani, McCullough was given a choice: resign or be fired. McCullough resigned, but the Human Rights Campaign has taken up her cause, gathering over 50,000 signatures on a petition on her behalf. McCullough, who is now teaching at Central High School, says she just wants an apology from her former employer and for Mount St. Mary's to adopt a non-discrimination policy.
Source: Arkansas Times, 10/24/2013

Name: Nick Johns
Diocese: Atlanta (Georgia)
Date of termination: Fall 2013
Case: In October 2012, Johns, who is gay, was hired as organist at St. Brigid's parish in Johns Creek, GA. Almost immediately someone complained to the pastor, Msgr. David Talley, about Johns' Facebook page which contained postings supporting marriage equality. Talley simply advised Johns to make his Facebook page private, which he did. Then Talley was promoted to auxiliary bishop and the parochial vicar at St. Brigid, Fr. Joshua Allen, phoned Johns and told him he was suspended and would likely be fired because his Facebook page dissented with the moral teachings of the Church. Fr. Allen, who had publicly criticized the Supreme Court's ruling on same sex marriage saying that "the church is never going to stand by idly as society tries to turn [homosexual activity] into something that is not a sin," gave Johns a choice: resign or be fired. Johns resigned. He is now an organist at Rock Spring Presbyterian Church.
Source:, 9/24/2013

Name: Mike McMahon
Diocese: Arlington (Virginia)
Date of termination: Summer 2013
Case: McMahon, past president of the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, worked as a musical director for about 30 years in various parishes in the diocese, including Blessed Sacrament, St. Mark's and St. Agnes. He was terminated in 2013 after the pastor of St. Agnes learned of his February 2013 marriage to his same-sex partner. He is now interim music director of the non-denominational Protestant National City Christian Church in Washington, DC.
Source: Washington Post, 4/6/2014

Name: Kristen Ostendorf
Diocese: St. Paul and Minneapolis (Minnesota)
Date of termination: August 2013
Case: Ostendorf worked at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, MN, for 18 years as campus minister, English teacher and coach. The school fired her after, prompted by the resignation of the school's gay president William Hudson, Ostendorf stood up during a teacher workshop and announced that she was a lesbian in a committed relationship with another woman. She was asked to resign and when she refused to do so as matter of principle, she was given a letter terminating her. Ostendorf is now teaching English at Highland Park Senior High.
Source: MinnPost, 9/11/2013

Name: Ken Bencomo
Diocese: Los Angeles (California)
Date of termination: July 2013
Case: Bencomo was head of the English department at St. Lucy's Priory High School in Glendora, CA, and had been a teacher there for 17 years when he was fired for marrying his partner of a decade, Christopher Persky. Bencomo, who was considered an "exceptional" teacher, has sued his former employer in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging wrongful termination in violation of public policy, violation of the state Labor Code and breach of contract.
Source: San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 3/13/2014

Name: Matthew Barrett
Diocese: Boston (Massachusetts)
Date of termination: July 2013
Case: Barrett, an experienced food services professional, applied and was hired as Food Services Director at Fontbonne Academy, a private Catholic girls' school in Milton, MA, run by the Sisters of St. Joseph. Two days later, the offer was rescinded when the school administration realized that Barrett had listed his husband, Ed Suplee, as his emergency contact in his employment paperwork. In January 2014, Barrett filed a discrimination complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and sued the school in Norfolk Superior Court. Barrett, a Catholic, was never asked to sign a contract specifying that he would follow the teachings of the Church. In December 2015, a state judge ruled that Fontbonne Academy had indeed discriminated against Barrett. Judge Douglas H. Wilkins rejected the school's argument that hiring Barrett would infringe on its constitutional rights. "As an educational institution, Fontbonne retains control over its mission and message...It is not forced to allow Barrett to dilute that message, where he will not be a teacher, minister or spokesperson for Fontbonne and has not engaged in public advocacy of same-sex marriage." Barrett, who is now head cook at the Collicot and Cunningham elementary schools in Milton, welcomed the court's decision. A further hearing will be held to determine damages to be paid.
Source: Boston Globe, 1/29/2014 and 12/17/2015.

Name: William Hudson
Diocese: St. Paul and Minneapolis (Minnesota)
Date of termination: July 2013
Case: After serving as an administrator at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, MN, for 9 years, first as vice president for mission and then as president, Hudson resigned after telling the school's board that he was in a committed same-sex relationship. Prior to coming to Totino-Grace, Hudson had been associate executive director of the secondary schools department of the National Catholic Educational Association. "I love the Totino-Grace community, however, I need to be truthful about my life," said Hudson, who says he can now live openly with his partner of 18 years and their two children. The school said that Hudson has "an excellent record of accomplishment and provided strong academic and financial stewardship at Totino-Grace during his tenure. [But] leading a Catholic school while living in a committed same-sex relationship is not consistent with the teachings of the Catholic church..." Hudson has since accepted an offer to be director of institutional advancement at Mounds Park Academy, another private school.
Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, 7/2/2013 and Pioneer Press, 9/5/2013

Name: Kourtney Liggins
Diocese: Los Angeles (California)
Date of termination: June 2013
Case: Liggins was an 8th grade teacher at Transfiguration School in Los Angeles. In 2012, she became pregnant out of wedlock. She alleges that her principal, Fr. Michael Tang, told her that her "pregnancy would morally corrupt impressionable teenagers." Although she had wanted to take one year of maternity leave, she was forced to return after 6 months. When she came back, her pay was cut, she was excluded from important meetings, and Tang produced a packet of unsigned and undated "complaints" about her pregnancy and performance. Finally, in June 2013, she was terminated. Liggins filed a lawsuit in November 2014 against the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Transfiguration School, and Fr. Tang, claiming discrimination, retaliation and harassment. The suit is still in litigation but the Archdiocese has issued a public response saying that Liggins' dismissal was "the result of performance and classroom management matters separate from and unrelated to her leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act."
Source: Courthouse News Service, 11/24/2014, CBS Los Angeles, 5/22/2015

Name: Carla Hale
Diocese: Columbus (Ohio)
Date of termination: March 2013
Case: Hale, a physical education teacher and coach with 19 years experience, was fired from her position at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus after an obituary for her mother listed her lesbian partner's name among the survivors. After her dismissal, she filed a discrimination complaint against the Diocese of Columbus which was resolved through mediation at the end of 2013. Under the agreement, Hale will not return to Bishop Watterson but will receive acknowledgement for her years of service there. She will be working as a substitute teacher throughout Franklin County. Hale is Methodist.
Source:, 12/4/2013

Name: Mike Moroski
Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio)
Date of termination: February 2013
Case: Moroski, a 12-year teaching veteran, was fired from his job as dean of student life at Purcell Marian High School after posting a quote on his Facebook page from President Obama's inauguration speech supporting marriage equality. Moroski, who is heterosexual and married, was given an ultimatum by the archdiocese. He was told to remove the quote, recant his statements, agree to publicly not disparage the archdiocese, and create an "action plan" for himself detailing how he planned to live with morality. Moroski refused to compromise his conscience and was terminated. In November 2013, Moroski ran for city council but lost.
Source: ABC Good Morning America, 2/12/2013

Name: Marla Krolikowski
Diocese: Brooklyn (New York)
Date of termination: October 2012
Case: Krolikowski taught for 32 years as a man, Mark, at St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, NY. Gradually she added feminine touches to her look until, in 2011, the school confronted her after a parent complained. She explained that she was transgendered and identified as a woman. One of the officials responded that "it sounds like you're worse than gay." She was told to tone down her appearance and did so but a year later she was fired anyway. She has filed a discrimination suit against the school. The school has tried to get the case dismissed first by arguing that Krolikowski was fired for insubordination, a claim the judge questioned ("Insubordination after 32 years of teaching? And the insubordination seems to coincide with the expression of being transgender?"), then by alleging that Krolikowski was a "minister" who didn't fall under employment discrimination laws.
Source: WABC-TV, 2/11/2013 and WABC-TV, 9/9/2013.

Name: Nigel Studdart
Diocese: Auckland (New Zealand)
Date of termination: September 2012
Case: Studdart, a science teacher at Pompallier Catholic College in Whangarei, New Zealand, was suspended and forced out after he reportedly encouraged students to wear wrist bands supporting gay rights. Studdart and the students were protesting comments by principal Richard Stanton in an article in the school newsletter titled "Keeping Marriage Sacred". Stanton wrote that same-sex couples might be more disposed to a mindset that sees children as an entitlement or right, and therefore as commodities or possessions, rather than gifts. Studdart called the principal's inference that gay people were inferior parents "untenable". "The issue raised in the school newsletter and what I stood up over was discriminatory and prejudicial and has no rightful place in a decent society," he said. He said he was told his teaching practice was not in question.
Source: NZ Catholic, 10/15/2012 and The Northern Advocate, 9/20/2012

Name: Trish Cameron
Diocese: Crookston (Minnesota)
Date of termination: June 2012
Case: After 11 years teaching fifth graders at St. Joseph's Catholic school in Moorhead, MN, Cameron filled out her annual self-evaluation honestly. One of the questions on the survey which is administered confidentially to school employees asked teachers to rate how well they support the teachings of the church. Cameron answered that, "I do not agree with all church teachings on a personal level, but I do not bring my own opinions into religion classes." She was called into a meeting with her principal and the superintendent and asked to explain. She told them that she differed with the Church's teaching on gay marriage, this at a time when Minnesota voters were considering an amendment to the state's constitution that would restrict marriage to heterosexuals. One week later she was asked to resign. She refused to do so and was terminated. She is now teaching in a public school.
Source: Minnesota Public Radio, 6/27/2012

Name: Al Fischer
Diocese: St. Louis (Missouri)
Date of termination: February 2012
Case: When Fischer, who had been teaching music for four years at St. Ann Catholic School in north St. Louis County, MO, as well as working part-time as a music director at St. Rose Phillipine Duschesne parish in Florissant, proudly announced to his colleagues that he would be celebrating his 20th anniversary with his partner Charlie Robin by going to New York City and getting married, he didn't know that an official from the archdiocese was present. The next day, Fischer was fired from both positions. He is now working at a secular private school while continuing to serve as artistic director of a gay men's chorus and musical director at a Reform synagogue.
Source: New York Times, 3/9/2012

Name: Steav Bates-Congdon
Diocese: Charlotte (North Carolina)
Date of termination: January 2012
Case: Steav Bates-Congdon began working as music director of St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Charlotte in 2004. Eight years later, he was fired after marrying his partner of 23 years, Bill Bates-Congdon, in a ceremony in New York in October 2011. The two went on a January honeymoon to Mexico and when Bates-Congdon returned to St. Gabriel, he was handed a note by his pastor which read, "Employees of St. Gabriel ...are expected to live within the moral tradition of the Church... Your civil marriage stands in direct opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church, therefore ending your employment with us." Bates-Congdon is now music director at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Fort Mill, and his presence still riles the Catholic Church. Another parish in the diocese, St. Matthew Catholic Church in Ballantyne, refused to host Mecklenburg Ministries' 38th annual Thanksgiving Interfaith Service in 2013 because it was reluctant to invite Bates-Congdon to participate in the program as he had done in the past, since "in no way would we give the impression that the Catholic Church approves of same-sex marital covenants."
Source: Charlotte Observer, 2/20/2012 and Charlotte Observer, 10/20/2013

Name: Kathleen Quinlan
Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio)
Date of termination: December 2011
Case: Quinlan began working as a teacher at Ascension Catholic School in Kettering, OH in August 2011. When the unmarried Quinlan's pregnancy began to show, she offered to take a "behind the scenes" job and resume teaching after she had given birth. The offer was rejected and she was fired at the end of December 2011, thereby also losing her health insurance. Quinlan was told she was fired for violating a section of her employment contract that requires employees to "comply with and act consistently in accordance with the stated philosophy and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church." The teacher, who subsequently gave birth to twin girls, sued Ascension School and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for pregnancy discrimination. The case was eventually settled out-of-court in November 2013 for an undisclosed amount.
Source: WHIO, 1/3/2013 and Dayton Daily News, 12/5/2013

Name: Emily Herx
Diocese: Fort Wayne-South Bend (Indiana)
Date of termination: June 2011
Case: Herx had received exemplary performance reviews during her eight years as a language arts teacher at St. Vincent de Paul school in Fort Wayne. Despite this, Herx, who is married and not a Catholic, was fired after she underwent in vitro fertilization. The school found out that Herx was using IVF because she told them about it when she used sick days for the treatments, according to a lawsuit Herx filed against the diocese alleging discrimination under the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act based on gender and on infertility, which is considered a disability. In December 2014, a  jury ruled in favor of Herx and awarded her almost $2 million, covering medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress. The diocese says it plans to appeal the verdict.

Source: Associated Press/Fox News, 4/26/2012 and Journal Gazette, 12/20/2014

Name: Christa Dias
Diocese: Cincinnati (Ohio)
Date of termination: October 2010
Case: Dias, a lesbian who became pregnant through artificial insemination, was fired from her job teaching computer classes in two archdiocesan schools. Dias argued that as a non-Catholic, she was not aware that artificial insemination violated church doctrine or her employment pact. She sued the archdiocese for discrimination and, in June 2013, won her lawsuit and was awarded $71,000 for back pay and compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages.
Source: Associated Press/WCPO, 6/13/2013

Name: Laine Tadlock
Diocese: Springfield (Illinois)
Date of termination: October 2010
Case: Benedictine University says she voluntarily resigned. Tadlock says she was forced out. A assistant director of the Education Department at the university, Tadlock's problems began not with her marriage to her partner Kae Helstrom in Iowa but when the couple decided to announce their wedding in the newspaper in July 2010. The following month, Tadlock was offered early retirement -- an offer that included a confidentiality clause and a waiver prohibiting her from suing the university. She declined. She was then placed on administrative leave, followed by an offer of an alternate position for which she was not qualified and which she could either accept or resign from the university. In a letter to Tadlock's attorney, Benedictine President William Carroll wrote that "by publicizing the marriage ceremony in which she participated in Iowa she has significantly disregarded and flouted core religious beliefs which, as a Catholic institution, it is our mission to uphold."
Source: Springfield State Journal-Register, 11/10/2010

Name: Jodi O'Brien
Diocese: Milwaukee (Wisconsin)
Date of termination: May 2010
Case: O'Brien, who is a professor of Sociology at another Catholic institution, Seattle University, was offered and signed a contract accepting a position as Dean of Marquette University's College of Arts and Sciences. The offer was rescinded after Marquette learned that she was a lesbian who wrote about sexuality and gender issues. The university claimed O'Brien "the ability to represent the Marquette mission and identity", saying that they had found in her writing "some strongly negative statements about marriage and family." Marquette eventually reached a confidential settlement with O'Brien with President Fr. Robert Wild writing a letter apologizing for the way her case was handled.
Source: New York Times, 5/7/2010 and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 6/9/2010

Name: Sylvia Mulherin
Diocese: Arlington (Virginia)
Date of termination: January 2010
Case: Mulherin was music director at St. Leo the Great parish in Fairfax, VA, until she was quoted in a Washington Post story about ARCW Bishop Bridget Mary Meehan and the women's ordination movement. According to the Post, "Mulherin said that Jesus was progressive in his treatment of women but that, over time, men unjustly pushed women out. 'Maybe the women don't have to come in the back door, but we still have to sit in the pews...'". Her pastor then called the former nun into his office and demanded her resignation. Mulherin is now an organist at St. George's United Methodist Church in Fairfax.
Source: Washington Post, 1/28/2010

Name: Ruth Kolpack
Diocese: Madison (Wisconsin)
Date of termination: March 2009
Case: Kolpack had worked for St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Beloit for 26 years, including 10 years as pastoral associate. She was terminated for refusing to recant her thesis - written for her master's degree in divinity from Milwaukee's St. Francis de Sales Seminary - that challenged the church's noninclusive language in the Catholic Mass and its ban on women's ordination. Kolpack tried unsuccessfully to appeal her firing to the Vatican. She is now working in hospice care.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/12/2011

Name: Emily Prigge
Diocese: Winona (Minnesota)
Date of termination: February 2008
Case: Prigge was in her first year teaching at St. Felix School in Wabasha, MN, when she told her principal she was pregnant. Because she was unmarried, the school said she had failed to live up to the Catholic Christian Witness Statement she had signed, in which she agreed to set a good example as a Christian. It forced Prigge to resign.
Source: Associated Press, 2/14/2008

Name: Jan Buterman
Diocese: Edmonton (Canada)
Date of termination: 2008
Case: Buterman was fired from his substitute-teaching job after he informed the Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools about his sex change. Despite have previously received a letter praising his teaching abilities, Buterman received a new letter informing him that he would be terminated because "the teaching of the Catholic Church is that persons cannot change their gender" and that his sex change violated that teaching and would create confusion with students and parents. He is now working on his master's degree in policy studies at the University of Alberta and has filed a discrimination complaint with the human rights tribunal. The school division made an offer to settle for $78,000 in 2011 but Buterman deemed the offer unacceptable. "There was stuff in there like I would no longer speak of this in any way shape or form, that I would no longer refer to me having ever been fired, or that I would be responsible for anyone else who would ever speak about this...Ultimately it comes down to me not being comfortable agreeing to be silenced." Gender identity is a protected area for teacher employment in that jurisdiction.
Source: Edmonton Sun, 1/12/2014 and CBC, 1/12/2014

Name: Tom Girsch
Diocese: Dubuque (Iowa)
Date of termination: August 2006
Case: Girsch had taught social studies and coached football at Columbus Catholic High School in Waterloo, IA, for 32 years. Girsch was asked to resign when school officials found out he had remarried in August 2006 after having been divorced in 1997, in violation of Catholic Church teaching. To rectify the situation, he sought an annulment from his first marriage but when that was denied, he was forced to resign. Girsch subsequently sued Cedar Valley Catholic Schools and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Dubuque for breach of contract and in April 2010, he was awarded $606,380 in damages. The Archdiocese challenged the amount of the settlement and Girsch agreed to accept $372,330.
Source: Catholic News Agency, 8/8/2007 and WCF Courier, 10/26/2010

Name: Michelle McCusker
Diocese: Brooklyn (New York)
Date of termination: October 2005
Case: McCusker was a preschool teacher at St. Rose of Lima in Queens, NY. A single woman, McCusker became pregnant and informed the school that, as a pro-life Catholic, she would be keeping the baby. The school fired McCusker, saying that her out-of-wedlock pregnancy violated the teacher handbook which specifies that a teacher "must convey the teachings of the Catholic faith by his or her words and actions." The New York Civil Liberties Union joined McCusker in a complaint against the school, claiming gender discrimination. In October 2006, the EEOC ruled that St. Rose of Lima had engaged in unlawful pregnancy discrimination by firing McCusker.
Source: ABC News, 2/20/2006 and NYCLU press release, 10/11/2006

Last updated: 1/2/2016

1 comment:

  1. Glad you are doing this. Looking out for casualties in Hawaii. aloha Dawn