Students Rally for Fired Catholic School Teacher

You may have heard by now that a Catholic school in Ohio fired a longtime teacher at the school because she’s lesbian. And the only reason they even found out about it was because she listed her partner in her mother’s obituary. That led a parent to inform the school and demand that she be fired:

When Bishop Watterson High School teacher Carla Hale returned to work last month after her mother’s death, administrators at the Catholic school in Clintonville confronted her with a letter.

An anonymous parent had written to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, appalled that Hale had listed her female partner’s name in an obituary.

Within weeks, Hale said, she was fired because she is in a gay relationship.

She explains how it happened.

HALE: If it were not for an obituary that appeared in the paper, none of this would be happening… She asked me if I really wanted to put her name in there — in the obituary — but as we sat there that day — my mom really loved Julie and Julie loved my my mom and as I sat there with my brother, you know, it was like… his wife was mentioned, my niece’s husband was mentioned, so why not? Why not my person I love?

There’s nothing that can be done about it. As a Catholic School, they have every legal right to fire her. But the really hopeful thing is that students at the school have rallied behind her and are speaking out against the school:

Students began an online petition on Monday that has been gaining about 100 supporters per hour. It was up to 2,800 by noon today.

The petition calls Hale a beloved teacher “who cared for her students and treated each one with respect.”

“The school, however, did not reciprocate that respect in its treatment of her,” reads the petition, started by Watterson senior Jackson Garrity. “Discrimination and injustice is something that we all have a duty to fight in today’s society. … The school claims its mission is to teach its students about love, acceptance, and tolerance, and yet it did none of this in the way it treated Ms. Hale. That is why we all have to stand up together and let it be known that this decision is unacceptable.”…

“My classmates and I feel very passionately about this issue,” Garrity told Outlook by email. “We (the senior class) agreed that we needed to take a stand as leaders and voice our opinions.”

It’s just another example of how out of step the Catholic Church is with its own membership, especially younger people.

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  • Sastra

    The Catholic Church is also out of step with love, acceptance, and tolerance.

  • dean

    My wife went to her church Saturday night. She was having a discussion about this with a friend of hers after the mass. The priest overheard them saying bad things about this school and its handling of the incident, and approached them with this bit of “wisdom”:

    “Remember that the church and its schools are the leaders in promoting social justice. If this school were to give in to the popular view that homosexuality is socially acceptable, that position of leadership would be undermined.”

    My wife was stunned that an adult capable of walking and dressing himself could be so staggeringly stupid. (I had pointed that fact out many years ago, when her mother’s priest told us that “since our children were adopted we were not, in the view of the church, a real family”.)

  • cptdoom

    I am going to guess this is selective enforcement of the Church’s teachings. When I was in Catholic school, we had non-Catholic teachers, we had divorced and remarried teachers, we even had a married couple at the school who had started dating when the wife was still a student at the school and her husband a teacher (she was above 18 and not in any of his classes, so it was allowed). There is no way that every other teacher at that school lives their life in full alignment with Church teaching, but that won’t stop the diocese from using their religious exemptions to target someone for being who they are.

    I wonder how the school would respond if a parent demanded all non-Catholic teachers be fired? Or, more to the point, if vendors in the area stopped working with the school because it does not uphold their moral beliefs.

  • Sastra

    @dean #2:

    Sincerity is over-rated. The gist of this ‘argument’ is that the people who are doing the wrong thing think they are instead doing the right thing — and they are grounding this belief in untestable faith. This is supposed to make us go all ooey-gooey and forgiving. They’re interpreting “social justice” according to the divine picture, not the secular one. They deserve extra props for that. And for being sincere, too. Faith.

    No. They don’t. Deadly combination there.

  • Good on those students, says I.

  • kantalope

    At graduation, I propose that each student bypass the jerks on the podium and go hug Ms. Hale and her partner who someone has thoughtfully invited and is sitting in the front row.

  • Sastra “They’re interpreting ‘social justice’ according to the divine picture, not the secular one.”

    Sure, but, to be fair, actual social justice is hard.

  • grumpyoldfart

    My prediction: She won’t get her job back – and no compensation either.

  • ArtK


    Not an entirely safe prediction. Apparently, Ohio’s employment discrimination law doesn’t have a religious institution exemption.

  • acroyear

    Well, they do have the school’s mission wrong:

    “Bishop Watterson High School Mission Statement – Restore all things in Christ by educating in the Catholic tradition through prayer, service and study.”

    and the Beliefs page lists nothing about “love, acceptance, and tolerance” :

    • Christ is the reason for this school – the unseen, but ever-present teacher in its classes – the model of its faculty and the inspiration of its students.

    • The faculty and staff of Bishop Watterson High School understand and respect Catholic doctrine and morals in their research and teaching.

    • Bishop Watterson High School shows its Catholic identity through Christian inspiration, knowledge of the Catholic faith, faithfulness to the Christian message as it comes through the Church, and an institutional commitment to service.

    • Bishop Watterson High School provides a positive learning environment that fosters opportunities for administrators, faculty, staff, parents, and students to share in the responsibility for advancing the school’s Catholic mission.

    • Student learning and moral, spiritual, intellectual and social development are the primary focuses in decision-making impacting the work of the school.

    • Students learn in different ways and are provided with a variety of instructional approaches and types of assessment to challenge them to learn and support in their learning.

    • All students have the opportunity to learn and to assume responsibility in making educational choices for success.

    • Students are provided with opportunities for critical thinking so that they can apply what they have learned in all aspects of their education-moral, spiritual, intellectual and social.

    • Bishop Watterson High School is a safe, supportive, and challenging learning environment which gives students opportunities to become confident, self-directed, and life-long learners.

    This would have me think that they’ve kinda evolved their real moral standard on this independent of the school, not because of it or anything the school has published on the subject of tolerance.

  • D. C. Sessions

    kantalope@6: This.

  • Synfandel

    I hope a large percentage of the parents of students at Bishop Watterson Catholic High School express their disapproval through their wallets by sending their children to a public school next fall. Nothing focuses a parochial school’s attention like falling revenues.

  • Chiroptera

    As a Catholic School, they have every legal right to fire her.

    Why is that? Is teaching at a parochial school a “ministerial” position? ‘Cause if not, then I’d think they’d be bound by the same employment laws as everyone else. And if Ohio’s anti-discriminatiion laws include protection for homosexuals, then they may not have any such legal right.

  • @13: Yes. The Supreme Court ruled on this a coupel eyars ago when a Protestant school fired a etacher for ebing disabled. Basically, they rules teachers fall under the ministerial position and whether she was fired for religious reasons isn’t a question the court can answer. Anyone remember the cite?

  • mobius

    The RCC is behind the times? Who would have guessed it.


  • Moon Jaguar

    Watterson HS is in Columbus – Clintonville is simply the neighborhood’s name. Columbus city code outlaws discrimination based on sexual orientation and has no exemption for religious institutions.

    I’m not sure about Ohio law but the city calls her firing illegal.

  • According to this story in the Columbus Dispatch,

    The firing of a gay teacher at Bishop Watterson High School has become a taboo subject.

    Students aren’t permitted to speak of it during school nor is the Watterson staff, whose emails are now being monitored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, school board member Michele Brown told a group of alumni yesterday.

  • Nothing focuses a parochial school’s attention like falling revenues.

    I doubt the school will feel any such pain. For every kid taken out of that school, there will be at least one kid put in by bigoted parents, using taxpayer subsidies. Bigotry + stupidity + fear of modern society + taxpayer subsidies = private schools have waiting lists no matter how bad they really are.

  • ahcuah: it appears the Church have learned some very useful lessons from all those fascist dictatorships they’ve been sucking up to for the last century or so.