Kirsten Andersen

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Columbus Bishop risks jail defending Catholic school that fired teacher for coming out as lesbian

Kirsten Andersen
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COLUMBUS, OH, May 3, 2013 (LifeSiteNews) – Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell has weighed in publicly on the firing of a lesbian teacher from a diocesan high school, telling The Columbus Dispatch that Catholic schools have a “fundamental responsibility” to make sure their teachers uphold the teachings of the faith.

Gym instructor Carla Hale was fired from Bishop Watterson High School last month after an anonymous parent wrote to the Diocese of Columbus to complain that in an obituary for Hale’s mother, Hale was listed as a surviving family member together with her longtime lesbian partner, Julie. 

Hale signed a morality clause as part of her contract, affirming that “Catholic school personnel are expected to be examples of moral behavior and professionalism,” and acknowledging her employment could be terminated for “immorality” or “serious unethical conduct.”  Because the Roman Catholic Church holds homosexual behavior to be gravely immoral, the Diocese of Columbus found her to be in violation of her contract, and fired her.

In an exclusive interview with The Dispatch, Bishop Campbell said that while diocesan officials “don’t necessarily go looking for things like that,” Hale’s choice to publicly reveal her homosexual relationship left the diocese no choice but to terminate her employment.

Hale wants her job back and has filed a grievance with the teachers union, along with a formal complaint with the Columbus Community Relations Commission accusing the school of violating Columbus’s anti-discrimination ordinance. 

City law deems it is a misdemeanor for an employer to discriminate against an employee based on sexual preference, or to have policies which do so.  There is no exemption for religious organizations or other employers who object to homosexuality on religious grounds.  A guilty verdict carries penalties of up to 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.  The Community Relations Commission will evaluate Hale’s claim and decide whether to pass it on to the city prosecutor’s office.

Bishop Campbell told The Dispatch that the Church, the diocese and the school have been the targets of multiple threats since Hale’s firing. “It can be very intimidating,” Campbell said. “We are very concerned about that, but we have to remain steadfast in the teaching of the church.” 

A diocesan spokesman told The Dispatch that the diocese is paying for a Columbus police officer to be present on campus during school hours, and that local police have stepped up their patrols in the neighborhood. 

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