Catherine Briggs

News,

Gay vice principal sues Seattle archdiocese, Catholic school over alleged forced resignation

Catherine Briggs

SEATTLE, WA, March 12, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The former vice principal of Eastside Catholic High School in Sammamish, Washington, is suing the Archdiocese of Seattle and the school for wrongful termination and discrimination after he was reportedly forced to resign as a result of his same-sex “marriage.”

Mark Zmuda, who had been at the school for 18 months, “married” his boyfriend, Dana Jergens, in July 2013, following the legalization of same-sex “marriage” in Washington State

Representatives for the school have filed a motion to dismiss the case, stating that “[the] Plaintiff’s action should be dismissed because the Court does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate Plaintiff’s claims without violating the First Amendment.”

“This is another example of people using the media to try and drum up public sentiments that the Catholic Church is anti-gay,” said John Mulvey, a policy analyst for the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, in a comment given to LifeSiteNews.

“The rights of religious institutions over employment decisions have been sustained by the Supreme Court,” Mulvey added. “The Church has the right and responsibility to ensure that all of its employees practice the values that it teaches.”

Zmuda claims that he was “terminated” because of his union. However, in a statement issued on December 20, 2013, Sr. Mary Tracy, president of Eastside Catholic, claimed that the decision was made in mutual understanding and agreement.

“In meetings with Mark,” Sr. Tracy said, “he and I discussed the situation and, although he was disappointed, we reached an understanding that the correct action was for him to submit his resignation. I then met with Archbishop Peter Sartain to inform him of the situation and of my decision and he agreed with the decision.”  Archbishop Sartain vocally opposed Referendum 74, the measure that legalized same-sex marriage in Washington State in 2012.

According to Zmuda, one solution offered by Sr. Tracy was for him and his “husband” to get a divorce in order for him to keep his job.  “It was a piece of paper, they said, that was the reason I was being let go.”  Because same-sex “marriage” is not recognized by the Catholic Church, the union is not valid under any circumstances.

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"I was asked by the school to break my wedding vows to keep my job," he said last week, according to the Associated Press. "I was told I could either divorce or be fired. How could anyone ask anyone else to make that choice?"

Eastside Catholic requires faculty to sign a contract agreeing to publicly abide by the Catholic Church’s teaching.  Zmuda claims, however, that his actions are not out of line with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

"I am a lifelong Catholic," Zmuda said. "I am a gay man. I did not choose to be gay. I do not see any inconsistency in the teachings of Jesus and being gay."  In an interview with a former student, he claims that he “disagree[s] with the way the church feels about this particular issue.”

The resignation has sparked a flood of support for Zmuda and protest against the Archdiocese of Seattle.  The students at Eastside Catholic have been especially vocal in their outrage over the resignation. Caelan Colburn, a student at the school, expressed his disappointment at the administration’s decision.

"We feel the administrators haven't done enough to protect him. Only the students have come to his defense," he said. "I strongly believe that gay people are equal human beings and deserve the same rights we have. The administration made it very clear that they care more about following the Archdiocese than doing the right thing."

Petitions have been started online, asking that Eastside Catholic rethink their policy as concerns gay “marriage,” and that the Church change Her doctrine. “The churches [sic] stance on homosexuality is medieval, and it's [sic] policies are not following in the teachings of Christ, Pope Francis or our basic human rights to chose [sic] who we love,” reads one.

Zmuda says he is “humbled” by the outpouring of support from the students.  “It’s very overwhelming.  I’m very humbled for the fact that I feel this overwhelming, what they call agape, love.” 

“They were taught in our school Catholic values to love and respect, and to challenge the Catholic teachings. They were asked to formulate their own opinions, and they were taught about love and respect. And I think that the students should definitely be able to stand up for what they believe.”

According to Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, these protests are hardly commendable.

“A contract is a contract, and Catholic is Catholic.” Reilly told LifeSiteNews.  “It seems that Eastside has been most respectful and generous to Mr. Zmuda in how they handled the situation, but it would be ridiculous for a Catholic school to compromise clear Catholic teachings—especially for a vice principal.”

“A Catholic school cannot be Catholic if it doesn’t regard Catholic teaching to be true,” Reilly added.  So there’s nothing admirable in encouraging students to challenge Catholic teaching.  That’s encouraging them to deny truth—the very basis of our Catholic faith.”

Local TV station KIRO obtained a recording of Zmuda at an assembly of students soon after his resignation.  “I just want to make one brief statement,” Zmuda said, “and that is to tell you that yes, I am gay. Yes, I did get married this past summer and I know it is against the Catholic teaching. I think a lot of you guys are raised in a generation that is more open and acceptable to things that are legal now in the State of Washington.”

Zmuda also stated that much of the school’s faculty backed him up as well.  “The faculty stood behind me. ... They talked about different options to try to keep me. They talked about possibly reaching out to the Pope. 'Has the Pope heard about this?'” Zmuda is referring to Pope Francis’s remarks in July 2013 on homosexuality.

Then-Mayor elect, Ed Murray, who is Catholic and gay, made an appearance at the protests, saying, “I’m not here to challenge the church’s doctrine but to show solidarity with the students.”  Murray “married” his partner at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church last year because of the Catholic Church’s opposition to such unions.

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