News that gay educators in Iowa and Nebraska were fired from the Catholic schools where they had been teaching broke yesterday, prompting swift outcry from local communities.
Since 2010, Matthew Eledge taught English and coached the speech team at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha. Now, KETV 7 reports that Eledge’s contract was not renewed for the coming school year after the teacher informed administrators of his December engagement to partner Elliot Dougherty.
Students responded quickly, launching a Change.org petition that gathered almost 15,600 signatures in eight hours. They claim Eledge attempted to postpone the wedding so he could continue teaching, but was told by administrators he would have to end his relationship with Dougherty to preserve his job, and he would be fired immediately if any of this was mentioned to students.
In later portions of the petition, Eledge is extolled by the students who call him a “living example of what it means to be a SkyHawk [the school’s mascot].” They write:
“A core belief at Skutt Catholic is to inspire ‘moral and ethical leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society’. As parents, former teachers, alumni, and individuals who support the Skutt Catholic community: we demand the administration embrace diversity and stand up for justice by not discriminating against a teacher that has inspired hundreds of students and future leaders in the community.”
In response to this student-led protest, Deacon Tim McNeil of the Archdiocese of Omaha defended the firing. In an interview with The Omaha World-Herald, he said the archdiocese does not publicly discuss contract renewals, but he did note that all teacher contracts include language about upholding Church teaching, and that this would include not marrying someone of the same gender.
Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines allegedly revoked a job offer made to Tyler McCubbin because he is gay.
McCubbin, who has been a substitute teacher and track coach since last fall, applied for a position to teach social sciences and was offered it by the school’s president. This offer, however, was revoked after a social media check revealed McCubbin’s same-sex relationship. KCCI 8 quotes McCubbin:
” ‘I said, “Yes it’s true. I’ve been engaged for almost a year now.” And they said, “Because of that, we can’t offer you the contract…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.’ ”
” ‘I walk into Dowling every day, actually. [I’m] really blessed to be able to substitute at a school like Dowling. The structure is great, the kids are great.’ “
Dowling students are planning a walkout today and alumni have spoken out against the school’s decision, reports KCCI 8. In a press release, organizer Grace Mumm said the walkout is happening because students “cannot let this issue slide without voicing that love” for all. Alum Sydney Schulte added:
“If a qualified teacher can’t be accepted because of his sexual orientation, why should any LGBTA+ students feel the same way?”
The school’s superintendent, Luvern Gubbels, claims McCubbin was never offered a job because the hiring process was still underway and says he may be acting upon a verbal claim by a school official that McCubbin was the top choice. A further statement from Bishop Richard Pates, obtained by Call To Action, did not name McCubbin but admits that an individual was not offered a job at Dowling because “It came to the school’s attention through the social media scan that the applicant is in a same-sex relationship and is engaged.”
Matthew Eledge and Tyler McCubbin join more than 40 other church workers who have lost their jobs over LGBT issues since 2008. Scott Alessi writes about this troubling trend for U.S. Catholic, which includes a survey about whether Catholic institutions should fire church workers over these issues that you can access here. Alessi, however, is clear that these firings are unjust, writing:
“The selective scrutiny in focusing on only a handful of teachings related to sexuality also sets a double standard in the workplace…Pope Francis has repeatedly called for a church of mercy, one that does not focus on the faults of its members or obsess over a narrow set of doctrinal issues. The church’s employment policies should take a similar approach…
“It is time to end the witch hunt for employees within the ranks of the church who may not always be living according to the letter of the law. If such a strict test were truly applied across the board so that anyone who sins were to be fired, everyone from the pope on down would lose their job. Instead of trying to purge the church of employees who may not meet the ideal, it is time to craft a new approach that appreciates their gifts and talents, recognizes the value of their contributions, and helps to point them—and all whom they encounter in their work—toward the gospel.”
These two most recent firings hammer home how, indeed, it is time for a new approach.
For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of these and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 40 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equal rights.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry