Dustin Siggins

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Catholic school won’t renew contract for softball coach who works at Planned Parenthood

Dustin Siggins
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BILLINGS, MT, February 19, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A local Catholic high school has chosen to not renew a coaching contract with a softball coach who works at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

In November 2013, Tarn Duff – then Tarn Potter, before her marriage – began working at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Duff, who coached Billings Central Catholic School in 2013, is a former college softball player who volunteered during the school's 2012 season and was paid approximately $1,500 for coaching hitters and outfielders in 2013. 

After being told she would not be offered a new contract for the 2014 season, she told local media that the “only reason” the school “gave me was that I work at Planned Parenthood.”

Duff says she “never thought twice” about whether working for Planned Parenthood would “be an issue” with getting hired as a coach. However, according to Superintendent of Catholic Schools Patrick Haggerty, who heads all Catholic schools in Montana, “being employed by Planned Parenthood, an organization that by its nature violates Catholic moral teaching by providing abortions, is not being a good role model to the children attending Catholic schools.” 

Local media is reporting that Duff was fired for her work, but Haggerty clarified that “we fulfilled the terms of the contract, and so did she.” Spring season contracts have not been offered to coaches for 2014, Haggerty said. Haggerty told the media that he “[doesn't] know if you can say she's been fired.”

According to Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly, “it's sad that the media thinks this so controversial that a woman’s personal trials need to be on public display. It appears that the school handled this as kindly as possible: her contract was not renewed, which is not the same as firing, and the reason was explained to her personally.” 

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“Her work at Planned Parenthood is a serious matter between her and God,” Reilly told LifeSiteNews in an e-mail. “It is also justifiably a contractual issue for the school. A Catholic school’s mission is the moral, spiritual and intellectual formation of students in the Catholic faith, so it’s a natural requirement that employees embrace and model Catholic values. A school that makes expectations clear up front and in employee contracts does everyone a favor, so that situations like this ought never be controversial.”

In an e-mail, Duff told LifeSiteNews that she did not reach out to the media about Billings' decision. Instead, a relative she told about the situation called the media. However, according to Duff, "once the media knew about it I didn't mind giving an interview." 

Duff told local media she is not considering a lawsuit at this time. She did say she “believe[s] everyone has a choice to decide what they’re going to do with their body. Planned Parenthood advocates for equal rights, and women and men both go there. People go there to get checkups.”
She also compared her situation to Shaela Evenson, a Catholic teacher who was recently fired for an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Evenson, who worked for the Diocese of Helena at Butte Central Catholic Schools, has received support from many Catholics who say the diocese is violating a message of tolerance from Pope Francis, who has made headlines for baptizing the child of unwed parents and offered to baptize the child of a single Italian mother. 

Haggerty has told the Montana Standard that while “the Holy Father certainly understands the sacrament of marriage and certainly is compassionate and understanding, and so is the diocese in Helena... I think that the connection between what the Holy Father has done, which is an incredible act of kindness, is not the same as what we face with a contractual obligation with our teachers.”

He also contrasted the diocese's obligations with that of the Pope's, noting he is “sure that the woman that he blessed is a wonderful person, as is Shaela, but the woman just didn’t agree to teach in a Catholic school.”

The Diocese of Great Falls-Billings did not respond to a request for comment.

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