Gay Teacher Case in Omaha Affects Community, Statehouse, and Future

Matthew Eledge

In Omaha, the repercussions of Skutt H.S.’s decision not to renew the teaching contract of gay teacher Matthew Eledge are reverberating in the local community, the statehouse, and, perhaps even into the future.

The Catholic school made the employment decision when they learned from the English teacher and speech coach that he plans on marrying his partner, a man.  Immediately, students, parents and alumni organized a petition drive–with over 45,000 signatures in two days–to support Eledge.  But perhaps the most interesting developments are yet to come, as Eledge has stated that, as far as he knows, he is still employed by the school to finish out the academic year.

KETV reported that Eledge told them

“. . . that he respects the school and the Archdiocese.

“Eledge also said, while he’s scared and nervous, he is also humbled by the outreach from alumni, parents and the community.”

The case had repercussions at the Nebraska statehouse in Lincoln. KETV stated:

“Some state lawmakers sounded off during debate on the Legislature floor. . . .

” ‘No one should be fired or judged on the ridiculous standard of whom they love,’ Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks said.”

If you would like to see a copy of the Archdiocese of Omaha’s teacher contract, click here.

The case illustrates the importance of laws outlawing LGBT discrimination, though with the inclusion of religious exemptions, these laws would still not be applicable to Catholic institutions. In an Associated Press article, Steven Willborn, a University of Nebraska employment discrimination law professor said that a 2012 Omaha law and a proposed state law are both not applicable to Eledge’s case because of religious exemptions.

Wilborn was not without hope, though.  The article reported:

“Any reversal would be more likely to come from a public opinion backlash, Willborn said, such as seen recently in Indiana when that state’s lawmakers passed a religious objections law that critics said would sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians.

” ‘Of course, the public opinion that would matter most at Skutt would be what their parents and supporters and donors think,’ Willborn said.”

The inclusion of a financial factor in Willborn’s analysis raises an important question.  Throughout the last few years as we witnessed the over 40 employment disputes over LGBT issues in Catholic institutions, we have seen Catholic people protesting these unjust decisions from a faith perspective.   The most significant feature of these protests has been the outpouring support from young people.

While Catholic school leaders need to question the justice of their actions in regard to dismissing employees over LGBT issues, they also need to think about the practical consequences for the future of these institutions.  Will this next generation of Catholic students consider sending their children to schools which discriminate against LGBT people?  If they don’t, how much longer will Catholic schools survive?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

 

15 thoughts on “Gay Teacher Case in Omaha Affects Community, Statehouse, and Future

  1. Terry Wagner Naples FL April 11, 2015 / 9:21 am

    Young people will not tolerate this type of discriminating behavior by the hierarchy. You are right in the statement that the young of today do not want their children to treat people this way.

  2. jono113 April 11, 2015 / 11:57 am

    Why do you leave it to the next generation of parents to decide whether to send their kids to Catholic schools? There will be an immediate impact if this generation of parents notifies the school that their children will not attend that school next year.

    • newwaysministryblog April 11, 2015 / 6:15 pm

      You’re right. It could happen even with this generation. I mentioned that it would surely come true by the next generation since these youth, on the whole, have made LGBT equality their number one issue.

    • Ram April 12, 2015 / 3:10 pm

      The parents sent their kids to Catholic school, presumably in part, because they want their children to be instructed in the Catholic faith.

      You think that they’d all place SSM in front of their Catholic beliefs?

      If so, why would you think that?

      • jono113 April 13, 2015 / 12:18 pm

        My point is that those who walk out of classes or write complaining letters to bishops need to do more. Schools and bishops know they can weather the storm for a few days and then it’s back to business as usual. If parents said they wouldn’t enroll their kids next year that would be a storm not so easily weathered.

  3. Chris Nunez April 11, 2015 / 5:27 pm

    If you’re going to press this issue you’d better be prepared with our proper documents. The Statement on Discrimination against the Homosexual Person (1983) written by the Washington State Catholic Conference should be dusted off and quoted time and again! This and other issues should be seen and discussed through the ‘lens’ of this document. The bishops challenge both civil government and the Church!

    If you folks at New Ways Ministry, or you Sr. Jeannine send me an address I’ll send you a copy of the document!

    • newwaysministryblog April 11, 2015 / 6:14 pm

      Yes, Chris, you are absolutely right! That document is very powerfully written and very challenging to both Church and society. We need bishops writing statements like that one again!

    • Ram April 12, 2015 / 3:08 pm

      Speaking of being prepared with proper documents, show us the one that proclaims statements from Washington State Catholic Conference as binding.
      If you have those documents, when did that happen? I though pronouncements on doctrine, faith and morals came out of Vatican City, not Washington State.

  4. Richard G. Roy April 11, 2015 / 6:48 pm

    Respond to these unjust firings with your pocket book. Let them feel it where it hurts; the Sunday collections. That’s the only language these bishops understand. You can always donate the money to independent charities.

    • Ram April 12, 2015 / 3:05 pm

      No one was fired, Roy.

  5. amagjuka April 11, 2015 / 11:05 pm

    I give donations to NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby and educational organization. I told our bishop and priest why I do this instead of donating to my parish.

  6. Ram April 12, 2015 / 3:04 pm

    “The case illustrates the importance of laws outlawing LGBT discrimination”
    In what way?
    Anyone who reads the contract can see that when Mr Eledge does marry his partner, and was under contract with Archdiocese at the time, he would be terminated.
    Now, he’s under his current contract and will finish the school year with that agreement in place.

    Where’s the “LGBT discrimination” that you think is illustrated? Every teacher signs the same contract.

  7. amagjuka April 12, 2015 / 3:39 pm

    Most Catholics see firing, isolating, marginalizing, and denying rights that we heterosexuals would have for ourselves as discrimination. We think that calling LGBT people “intrinsically disordered” is discrimination. We do not want the church to do these things in our name. We are the Body of Christ, we are the church. We do not want discrimination against LGBT people. This is not a tenet of faith and no one should make it so.

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