Students and faculty at Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Washington, protested yesterday morning when they learned that the school’s vice principal was fired because he married his male partner.
The Seattle Times reported that Mark Zmuda, the fired administrator, met with the students during their protest in front of the school on Thursday, December 19th. According to one student:
“He told us he had gotten fired because he is gay and married. He told us to grow up, get a job and find true love. He was crying and told us what we were doing meant a lot to him.”
Zmuda’s firing brings to twelve the number of LGBT people fired from Catholic institutions in the U.S. fired this year because of sexual orientation, gender expression, or marital status.
According to a report on KIROTV.com, 400 students from Eastside Catholic, which is in the Seattle metropolitan area, walked out of their classrooms for the protest.
The Seattle Times reported that students at another local Catholic high school, Seattle Preparatory School, staged a protest in solidarity with Zmuda at their school. The protest ended with continued discussion on a school-wide basis:
“ ‘Diversity Director, Heidi Kim, moderated a discussion with our students,’ according to the statement to Seattle Prep parents. ‘Following that, Principal Maureen Reid asked students to return to class, where they were able to take up the discussion with their classmates and instructors.’ ”
The Seattle demonstrations come only one week after students in the Philadelphia area publicly protested the firing of Michael Griffin, a foreign language teacher, from Holy Ghost Preparatory School because he and his male partner obtained a marriage license. According to an Associated Press story:
“Administrators at a Roman Catholic high school suffered a sharp and swift backlash this week after firing a well-liked teacher who sought to marry his same-sex partner.
“Educators said they had no choice, but thousands have protested the move through Facebook groups and petitions demanding that Michael Griffin be rehired at Holy Ghost Preparatory School. Some alumni have pledged to withhold financial support.”
A Religion News Service story on The Washington Post website noted that a new coalition of Catholic gay and lesbian students in Pennsylvania has formed to protest Griffin’s firing:
Gay and lesbian Catholic students in Pennsylvania are joining alumni and others in pushing a Catholic high school near Philadelphia to reinstate a teacher who was fired after he applied for a marriage license with his partner. . . .
“Michael Griffin did not deserve to be treated in a way that does not clearly reflect Christ and His teachings,” says the letter sponsored by the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition. “He has dedicated his life to the Holy Ghost Community. He is just as much a part of the Holy Ghost family as any other member.”
Since the beginning of 2012, Bondings 2.0 has been reporting and commenting on this disturbing, growing trend of firing LGBT people from Catholic institutions. (You can read all the stories concerning this topic in by clicking on “Employment Issues” in the “Categories” box in the right hand column of this blog post.) This past Sunday, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni commented on this trend in an essay entitled “The Catholics Still in Exile.” Bruni notes that the message of and spirit of Pope Francis’ outreach to lesbian and gay people is muted by the actions of these institutional administrators:
“Pope Francis has indeed been a revelation, his gentle tone and sustained humility more in touch with the heart of Catholicism than the bitter jeremiads of other Catholic leaders were. But it’s important to note that he hasn’t pledged to revisit doctrine, nor are such revisions likely to happen anytime soon. The world turns at a breathless clip; the church, at a glacial one.
“It’s equally important to note that beyond Rome, the very focus on sexual morality that the pope seems to be waving Catholics away from can still be keen and uncompromising. Examples are made where they needn’t be; punishment is meted out when it doesn’t have to be. And it’s this, as much as anything uttered in Vatican City, that continues to drive a wedge between open-minded Catholics and the church’s hierarchy.”
New Ways Ministry’s response to these dismissals has been to encourage Catholics to work towards getting their schools, parishes, and other institutions to adopt non-discrimination policies which will protect LGBT people from being fired. You can read our whole list of suggestions by clicking here. If you need help with organizing to adopt such policies, please call or email our office: (301)-277-5674; info@NewWaysMinistry.org. The best way to stop these firings is to prevent them by putting into practice Catholic social principles of equality, human dignity, freedom, and the value of work.
Another way you can help is to spread the word about establishing non-discrimination policies by sharing the Facebook meme pictured above on your social media accounts You can access it by clicking here. Let’s make this movement go viral!
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry