Catholic Students Protest on Behalf of Gay Assistant Principal Who Was Fired for Getting Married

In case you needed more evidence that Catholic school students are often kinder, more decent people than Church officials, just look at what happened at Eastside Catholic High School (in Seattle, Washington) today.

On Tuesday, Assistant Principal Mark Zmuda was forced to resign from his position after school officials confronted him about his sexual orientation and summer wedding. Tomorrow will be his last day at school thanks to the “loving,” “grace-filled” nature of the Catholic Church.

Mark Zmuda (right) and husband Dana Jergens

But the students at the school weren’t taking that decision lightly. Today, 300 of them staged protests online, on Twitter, in the cafeteria, and outside the school:

Students protest on behalf of Mr. Zmuda (Steve Ringman – The Seattle Times)

One student at Eastside Catholic said the entire student body was protesting; students either walked out of class or never went. Many were crying along with their teachers.

Students said they were told the decision to fire Zmuda was made by the Archdiocese of Seattle. They said they and students from other Catholic schools within the diocese planned to collect and submit signatures hoping to win Zmuda his job back.

Zmuda won’t get his job back. He broke the rules he agreed to in his contract and the Church isn’t known for compassion when it comes to gay people in loving relationships.

Still, the online petition (currently at 4,400 supporters) shows how large the gap is between children who care about love and the adults who prioritize ancient rules that forbid it in certain circumstances:

Sign seen inside Eastside Catholic High School

The student body is outraged that an incredible administrator, coach, and human being was fired solely because of his love and marriage for another human being. We are uniting in order to change the Catholic Church’s opposition of gay marriage. It is time to revisit the policy and act as Jesus would have, loving and supporting every person regardless of their marital status. United, we want this policy changed so that the Catholic Church can achieve its mission of acting with unconditional love in every situation.

Well, good luck with that one…

Back to the positive, though. It’s really amazing how other students, even those at other Catholic schools, joined forces with the Eastside students today.

And Zmuda, closing in on his final day at the school tomorrow, still found a way to give the students valuable advice:

While students were protesting on the street, [freshman Sophia Cerino] said, Zmuda came out to talk to them about what had happened. “He told us he had gotten fired because he is gay and married. He told us to grow up, get a job and find true love. He was crying and told us what we were doing meant a lot to him.”

Think about the message Church officials have sent these students: Love doesn’t matter. Your dedication to our schools doesn’t matter. If you’re gay, you better stay single and celibate if you want to be part of our club.

The students who protested today showed the Catholic Church precisely why its in so much trouble. The kids may not have a choice about the school they attend now. But once they are able to make the choice for themselves, how many of them will raise their kids in the Church? How many will even attend Church? How many will leave the faith altogether? They know better than to give any respect to Church officials who don’t deserve it.

Eastside Catholic inadvertently created a batch of future atheists today.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis is silent on matters like this. Sure, he says Catholics shouldn’t “judge” gay people… but firing them for the crime of marrying-while-gay? Not a problem for him.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.


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