FaithTue Apr 29, 2014 - 6:09 am EST
Dozens protest new contracts requiring Catholic school teachers to support Church teachings
CINCINNATI, OH, April 29 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Sixty people, with a petition of 1000 locals, have protested new teacher contracts drawn up by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati that require teachers to live by and publicly affirm the Catholic Church's teaching on homosexual relationships, abortion, premarital sex, and other core doctrines.
Nationally, tens of thousands of people have signed petitions decrying the new contract stipulations.
Most opposition to the contract concerns the language of the contract, which requires fidelity to Catholic doctrine. One petition at FaithfulAmerica.com, which has over 21,000 signatures around the nation, attacks the contract for barring teachers from having or supporting homosexual relationships. The "new teacher contract is intrusive, cruel, flies in the face of Pope Francis's tone of welcome and humility," it said.
Another petition, which has over 1,000 mostly local petition signatures, expresses concern about "the potential of teaching staffs...to become a homogeneous group which lacks the diversity that's reflective of our communities," as well as "the future of our Catholic schools and their sustainability based on the restrictive, non-inclusive trend of the Cincinnati Archdiocese and their policies."
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Last year, the Archdiocese was ordered to pay $171,000 to a teacher it had fired in 2010 for getting pregnant via artificial insemination. That lawsuit led to an expansion and clarification of what the morality clauses meant in teacher contracts.
One man who helped draft the local petition, Tim Garry, is a lawyer who helped organize last week's protest. He told LifeSiteNews that he is mostly concerned about legal protections for teachers that he says don't exist in the expanded contract.
According to Garry, while the contract "spells out specifics, it is broader" than the old contract. He says that "it also clearly characterizes the teachers as 'teacher-ministers,' the effect of which is to take away some federal employment protections from teachers."
The federal protections Garry is concerned about relate to the Supreme Court's 2012 decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Church and School v. the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, where justices unanimously decided that federal laws may not interfere with teachers who are deemed “ministers.” According to Becket Fund Deputy General Counsel Luke Goodrich, " the law is clear that the government cannot interfere with a church’s decision to hire or fire employees who have important religious duties."
This, according to Garry, is a danger to the archdiocese's teachers, who would now be more vulnerable. Goodrich told LifeSiteNews that "The law is not crystal clear on when churches can dismiss low-level employees for violating church teaching.”
According to archdiocese spokesperson Steve Trosley, the media given to the protest Garry helped organize was oversized. "I estimate about 60-65 people marched from Fountain Square the four blocks to the Archdiocesan Central Office. They presented two petitions, one that they said was 'national' and one they called 'local.'" Garry told area news the group has over 1,000 signatures from locals protesting the contract.
While Trosley says that "the archdiocese welcomes discussion of our Catholic Schools in the public square," and noted that "leadership will review the petitions and later report if it deems any action is necessary," he pointed out that "I am told a significant number of teachers have already signed the 2014-2015 contract."
The archdiocese "has approximately 2,700 instructional professionals under contract, including teachers and aides."
"No conduct provisions were added or altered from previous years," Trosley added. "The contract was changed to make the language more specific."
Garry was unable to provide LifeSiteNews an exact number or percentage of employees who were displeased with the contract. Similarly, Trosley did not provide a precise number of teachers who have signed the contract.