Lesbian Teacher’s Firing Yields More Questions than Answers

Marian High School, Bloomfield Hills, MI

Update: In a follow-up statement, Barbara Webb clarified that it was her pregnancy outside marriage and not her sexual orientation that was the cause of her firing. There is still no comment from Marian High School officials.

There are more questions than clear answers in the firing of Barbara Webb, a former chemistry teacher at Marian High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In a Facebook post, Webb states the Catholic school fired her for being a gay woman and mlive.com quotes the post for further explanation:

“Kristen and I are expecting our first baby. I’m about 14 weeks. We are very excited and blessed and look forward to all that parenting will be.

“On the flip side of the coin, Marian was unwilling to offer me any type of leave and of course they were not willing to grant me the same right that a half dozen other teachers are enjoying this year while starting their families. In fact, Marian’s options to me, after 9 years of dedication including league winning coaching, 4.0 averages in AP chemistry scores, PD for the school based on my personal best practices, and dozens of students and family testimonials is 1) resign or 2) we will terminate you.”

Webb notes that administrators at the all-girls school offered to continue her health insurance through May if she signed left willingly and remained quiet, but the fired teacher’s response was that “$4k of health insurance wasn’t enough to buy my silence.”

The former teacher, who was also a volleyball coach, linked her firing over maternity leave issues to her identity as a partnered lesbian woman, writing:

“It is part of Marian’s mission to educate women about human diversity and in this have really missed out on a true life opportunity to set an example. Instead they are only perpetuating hate…

“My job can’t be saved but the torment that the poor LGBT students at Marian must be feeling (right let’s be real they exist too) the other LGBT staff (again let’s be real people) and those that are silenced by fear can be helped.”

What remains unclear are the exact reasons for Webb’s firing, as both diocesan and school officials have remained quiet. Ned McGrath, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Detroit,  confirmed only that a teacher from the high school was no longer employed after a “personnel matter” and there would be no further comment. Marian administrators, as well as representatives of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters of Monroe who sponsor the all-girls school, have been silent after repeated requests for comment.

It is certainly a possibility that Barbara Webb was fired for a number of reasons: her sexual orientation, her relationship status, becoming pregnant while not officially married, a combination of these, or something else entirely. The firing of more than a dozen LGBT and ally church workers this year alone adds credibility to Webb’s claims, but until school officials and the IHM sisters are willing to clarify publicly what happened, the public is left to guess. Hopefully, information on just what happened between Barbara Webb and Marian High School will be forthcoming as a matter of truth and justice for all involved.  Since we live in an atmosphere where LGBT people are regularly being fired from Catholic institutions, the church leaders in this case need to be clear what their motivations were.  They owe it to Webb and the public, but they also owe it to themselves, as a matter of integrity, to state their reasons.  Injustice is always perpetuated by silence.

That said, Webb’s closing of the Facebook post (which has been shared more than 650 times) is a message worth repeating:

“Here is what you can do: make one conscience effort to stand up to hatred. Whether it is for LGBT rights or racial, or religious or socioeconomic or women’s or special needs… Make yourself take that leap of faith to do the right thing and I promise you will not regret it, you may even find it catchy…Every act of justice that we can do collectively gets us one step further to a truly recognized human diversity.”

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

6 thoughts on “Lesbian Teacher’s Firing Yields More Questions than Answers

  1. Brian Kneeland August 30, 2014 / 7:33 am

    I m shocked that the IHM sisters would do this! They are usually so forward looking and so involved with justice issues. Additionally, members of their community are also members of Dignity Detroit.

  2. Stephen August 30, 2014 / 11:30 am

    I still would love to know how anyone thinks it is Christian to fire someone because they are pregnant or gay or not married? Nobody cares about being decent and considerate. They really need to be informed that they are not following Christ. They have made up their own religion, which is fine, but they shouldn’t call it Christianity.

  3. Michelle August 30, 2014 / 1:37 pm

    The only thing here is not hatred..it is she violated a contract she signed when employed. If you want to teach at a Catholic school you have to be OK or at least follow with their teachings. Her firing whether is was for having a sexual relationship outside of marriage or having a child out of wedlock or being lesbian are in direct conflict with the Church’s teachings. The Church is not promoting hatred of anyone, it is promoting their beliefs and teachings. Teach elsewhere I say. Live your life, but don’t expect the Church to change its teachings.

    • Stephen August 30, 2014 / 4:04 pm

      To fire someone because they are pregnant and gay is discrimination, which means you look down on someone as lesser or not entitled to basic freedoms or rights that others have. Hatred doesn’t mean you scream and yell obscenities at people. It means you treat them as if they don’t matter. Promoting beliefs like that is causing damage and pain and if you can’t see where that is unchristian and where that needs to stop, then I feel very sorry for you. Imagine if someone said to Rosa Parks, “Well, these are the laws, don’t ride the bus then.” How ridiculous of statement.

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