Los Angeles’ Daily News reported:
“Several hundred students, alumnae and supporters of Ken Bencomo rallied in Glendora on Thursday morning, protesting Bencomo’s firing from St. Lucy’s Priory High School after he married his longtime same-sex partner in July.”
According to Los Angeles.CBSLocal.com, Brittany Littleton, an alumna who organized the protest said:
“I believe very strongly in equal rights and in justice, but aside from that, Mr. Bencomo is an amazing teacher.”
about the protest, which included a comment from an alumna’s mother who jointed the demonstration:
“The school has an obligation to make good choices and to stand up and be courageous, and I don’t think they’re being courageous in this decision,” Terry Monday said. “I think they’re hiding behind Catholic doctrine and not demonstrating the values that they try to teach the girls.”
Bondings 2.0 reported on the firing when news broke last week. You can read the report here.
In addition to the protest, the firing has sparked a bit of commentary all over the country. In a Washington Post “On Faith” essay, Sharon Groves, Director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program, put the firing in the context of Pope Francis’ recent gay-positive comments, and wonders how the school can defend their action in terms of their Catholic faith:
“To be clear, it was an act that contradicted their mission statement’s call to respond compassionately to the needs of the community. Ken’s officials hid behind their “Catholic faith” to justify their position. But there isn’t one way to be Catholic.”
Groves points out the variety of ways that Catholics strongly support LGBT people:
“Ask the faithful Catholics — who organized as Catholics — in every state where marriage equality had a possibility of passing. Ask my friend Rosa Manriquez, who proudly raised two lesbian daughters and two grandchildren according to the core tenets of Catholic social teaching — to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Ask the countless Catholics living with the pain of exile but holding a deep longing for the church, as the Catholic hierarchy routinely denies their humanity.”
And, she points out, this support doesn’t stop at the level of the pews:
“And while the true intent of his Pope Francis’ words this week remains unclear, we were offered a morsel of hope. We were offered the possibility of a world where claims of a singular ‘Catholic faith’ aren’t used as an excuse for judgment, shaming and injustice.
“ ‘Do not judge’ is a mantra for us all to embrace, regardless of our faiths. But especially for my Catholic friends who hold St. Francis and Pope Francis so dear, now is the time for a real commitment to these words. We must all do better.”
In The Los Angeles Times, Michael McGough, a columnist questions the church-state issues that this firing raises. Should churches be allowed to discriminate in employment, he asks. He explicates the issue this way:
“This would make a good case study for law students. Does the teacher’s right to be free from discrimination trump the school’s right to safeguard its theological convictions about marriage by dismissing a teacher whose life is at odds with that teaching?
“California has a law against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which may or may not cover a situation in which an employee is dismissed because he has entered a same-sex marriage. On the other hand, the law doesn’t apply to “a religious association or corporation not organized for private profit.”
“Then there’s the 1st Amendment. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Lutheran church could fire a ‘called teacher’– one who had received a commission as a ‘minister of religion’ – without running afoul of anti-discrimination laws. But it’s not clear whether a lay teacher at a Catholic school would be in the same category.”
“With the spread of same-sex marriage, courts are going to be drawing lots of lines in this area. Maybe they will say that a Catholic school can dismiss a teacher who is in a same-sex marriage because teachers are role models, but it can’t discriminate against a bus driver or a bookkeeper. Or perhaps a Catholic college that serves adult students from a variety of religious backgrounds belongs in a different category from a parish elementary or high school.”
For Eduardo Moises Peñalver, a blogger at Commonweal magazine, a Catholic lay journal of opinion, the legal question is not as important as the moral question in this case:
“I want to separate the question whether Catholic institutions have the right to do this sort of thing from the question whether they should, on either moral or prudential grounds. I am not aware of divorced and remarried teachers getting fired. The axe always seems to fall on those who are somewhat more easily marginalized: unmarried pregnant teachers, gay teachers, etc. “
For a related post on the problem that Catholic institutions are encouraging by firing their LGBT employees, click here.
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry