Diocese affirms need for Catholic fidelity after teacher fired

Columbus, Ohio, Apr 26, 2013 / 05:20 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Following controversy over the firing of a Catholic school gym teacher who was in a homosexual relationship, the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio has said that educators must respect Catholic teaching and morals.

The Diocese of Columbus said that personnel matters are confidential under diocesan policy and cannot be discussed specifically.

Speaking “in general terms,” the diocese said in a statement, all Catholic school personnel agree at the beginning of their employment to “abide by the rules, regulations, and policies of the Catholic Diocese, including respecting the moral values advanced by the teachings of Christ.”

“The Catholic Church respects the fundamental dignity of all persons but also must insist that those in its employ respect the tenets of the Church,” the diocese continued. “Personnel who choose to publicly espouse relationships or principles that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church cannot, ultimately, remain in the employ of the Church.”

The diocese’s statement comes after media controversy surrounding the firing of Carla Hale, a former physical education teacher who had taught for 19 years at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus.

The teacher was fired after a parent noticed her same-sex relationship listed in her mother’s obituary and reported it to the diocese.

Hale told the CBS TV affiliate WBNS she was “shocked” that she has been fired over her relationship.

“I don’t think I’m immoral, I don’t think I've done anything that’s unethical,” she said.

Her attorney has said they will file a civil rights complaint with the City of Columbus’ community relations committee.

In 2008, the city passed an ordinance barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, according to the NBC TV affiliate WCMH, the school’s principal explained to Hale that her termination was not due to the fact that she was a lesbian, but because she had was a relationship with another woman, an action that violates Church teaching.

Morals clauses have been invoked to end the employment of heterosexual teachers at Catholic schools as well. In 2009, Xavier High School in Appleton, Wisc. declined to renew the contract of a male physical education teacher and baseball coach, reportedly after it learned he spent the night at a girlfriend’s house.

The Columbus city ordinance lacks an exemption for religious organizations, but present jurisprudence might protect the diocese from legal action.

It is not clear how the diocese would be affected if it is not exempt from the law. Violators of the ordinance can be criminally prosecuted for a first-degree misdemeanor and can face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, the National Catholic Register reports.

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