Monday, May 4, 2015

Discrimination Behind a Religious Veil



  
In March, Skutt Catholic High School speech coach Matt Eledge led his team to their fourth consecutive state championship. But soon after the state championships, school officials told Eledge his contract would not be renewed for the following school year. The decision came after Eledge informed the school that he and his partner, Elliot, were planning on getting married.
Students at Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska, are speaking out in support of an English teacher and speech team coach.  Students and fellow staffers who have launched a campaign calling for Eledge’s reinstatement have also alleged the school threatened to fire him if he told his students.
KETV reported that during the school’s annual fundraising walk, some students wore T-shirts that presented the Omaha Catholic school with a message and a challenge.  “I support Mr. Eledge,” the shirts read. The Human Rights Campaign logo was on the front, and on the back, the shirts quoted Jesus’ words from John 13:34: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Skutt Catholic President Jon McMahon defended the decision in a letter to the school community.  "If a staff member cannot commit to Catholic church teachings and doctrines, he or she cannot continue to be on staff at Skutt Catholic," he wrote.
Eledge, 28, has been a teacher at Skutt Catholic since 2010. He has said that he was fully aware of the risks of working at a Catholic school. But he ended up falling in love with the school -- especially the speech team. He helped coach the team to four consecutive state championships, according to KETV.
"For people who don't know the community, it seems like just another fun club, but for those involved, you develop the most meaningful relationships," Eledge said. "You're teaching kids how to believe in themselves, use their voices, be proud of who they are. I developed really great relationships with the kids and their family members."
Although Eledge was single when he entered the school, he later started dating. When his partner's mom was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, the two decided that they wanted to get married and make sure she could be at the ceremony.  Eledge said he took the news to school officials in early April, which is when his boss informed him that his employment contract wouldn't be renewed.
Same-sex couples aren't legally allowed to tie the knot in Nebraska. Omaha has an anti-bias ordinance on the books that protects LGBT people from workplace discrimination. But experts told the AP that the school is likely protected by a religious exception.
But the Skutt Catholic students certainly aren't alone in their support for LGBT rights. Studies show that the majority of American Catholics don’t agree with the church’s official stance on gay marriage. The Public Religion Research Institute found that 61 percent of white Catholics and 60 percent of Hispanic Catholics in America support allowing gay and lesbian couples to tie the knot.  Younger Catholics are especially likely to favor legalizing same-sex marriage. A Pew Research Center study found that three-quarters of Catholics under the age of 30 support same-sex marriage.
Matthew Eledge is the latest teacher to face unemployment because a Catholic school's administration chose not to renew his contract after officials learned about his engagement to another man.  In Des Moines, Iowa, Tyler McCubbin, a substitute teacher at Dowling Catholic High School, was denied a full-time job when administrators conducted a background check that included a scan of his Facebook page, and learned he was gay and engaged.
I believe it is rarely warranted for a church to claim religious exception, especially a Christian church who claim to follow Jesus's example of unconditional love and except.  Furthermore, I do not believe that any religious organization should be allowed to discriminate and hide behind he law.  Sadly though, the U.S. Supreme Court set a national precedent in 2012, allowing religious schools to take sexual orientation into account in the hiring and firing of employees.
“They could certainly file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but it’s unlikely they’ll prevail in a claim,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign.  “Religious schools are going to have the ability to hire and fire teachers consistent with the school’s faith views."  Warbelow added, “When they see a beloved teacher who has done an excellent job, being fired for celebrating a life milestone, it invokes in these students the deepening understanding of an injustice."
What I find as one of the saddest parts of these stories is that this happened in states with LGBT protections, gay teachers like myself who teach in states where no such protections exist are at the mercy of our employer.  Alabama, being a right-to-work state, doesn't even have to show cause for firing someone.  We desperately need LGBT protections and religious organizations should not be able to hide behind loopholes and discriminate, especially when they profess to follow Jesus, yet do the opposite of what Jesus would do 

8 comments:

Michael Dodd said...

Having spent 30 happy years of my life as a member of the Catholic clergy, stories like this sadden me profoundly. The inability of the bishops and others to see the inequity of such actions is one reason that led me to leave the ministry and the church.
On another topic entirely, I was thinking of the Don Williams song from 1980, "Good Ole Boys Like Me" and you came to mind. Are you familiar with it? If not, check it out on Youtube.

JiEL said...

This is so SAD and discusting for as CHRISTIAN school to show such bad decision and bad example to ALL those students and community.

BUT those students aren't blind and are doing the right thing: they live in a totally different world that those bigots...

Here is another example that RELIGION should be banned from schools...

Here, NO PUBLIC schools are «confessionnal».. Our ministery of education did ban ALL religious faiths from our schools...

We have «religions history lessons» where all students learn about the many religion in the world.

The only religion issues are coming from Muslims and Jewish Hassidics extremists.

Muslims are trying to have praying spaces in colleges, universties and even on their working places... Denied because of our laws.

Jewish Hassidics are having their own private schools giving only Tora and hebrew lessons which is outlaw here... Many are closed when the ministery of education finds out...

This teacher you've talked about wouldn't have that problem here because GAY RIGHTS are inbeded in our school board rules...

I told you, in my highschool we were 4 gay men and 3 lesbians openly known to all...
I NEVER had issues with that even in the private high school I was teaching for 17 years...

As I told you , other country, other laws and respect of the differences...

Amanda said...

I hope this teacher finds or is offered better employment somewhere else. It's such a shame when you have quality teachers who are not free to love whoever they want without fear of being fired. I'll be glad when all states have laws to protect everyone. Unfortunately I don't live in one but will vote to change that.

Jay M. said...

You're in a right-to-work state? I thought that would be an employment-at-will state like mine, Virginia. (Maybe those terms mean the same thing, I dunno.) Of course, we have no protections here, either.

(OK, turning on Devil's Advocate Mode, donning flameproof suit!)

I have to wonder though, about incidents as described in your post. EVERYONE, Catholic or not, knows to a "t" how the Catholic hierarchy feels about the LGBTQ community and especially the thought of us getting MARRIED! GASP! So why would you 1) teach in a place such as this, and 2) make your marriage public if you WANT to continue teaching in a place like this? (I will note that openly gay teachers in Catholic schools have had far less trouble; it seems the trigger is the word "marriage".)

CP, I know you're in the same boat in a lot of ways, and I do understand.

But to flaunt it is to lose. Sadly, the Catholic Church is probably a century away from accepting LGBTQ people as normal, every day people who are not "intrinsically disordered" and therefore not worthy of acceptance into their sect. My guess is that they will be a church of VERY OLD people, with NO young folks at all by that time.

The thing that drives me crazy is that the schools (there are many documented and made the news stories just like this) are forgetting about their students. The ones that as soon as they are out from under their parents' thumbs, will desert the church in droves. Many are already doing it. Yet the hierarchy prefers to cling to old, outdated, Catholicism than think about the here and now, not to mention the future.

Too many churches (and denominations) are doing this. They are driving away the very people they need to continue as viable entities - the young people. Their loss, and the LGBTQ community's gain.

Peace <3
Jay

naturgesetz said...

Thank you for posting this further proof of the unreliability of the promises of those who claim that those who do not agree with gay marriage will not be harmed in any way when the state allows it. Clearly dissent will not be tolerated!

This is not about protecting GLBT in secular employment. This is about coercing churches.

Joe said...

I don't think that's what I said, but I really don't think churches should be able to discriminate and call it their Christian duty. If that's the case, I guess the Mormons can go back to saying black people cant go to heaven.

Joe said...

Right to work and employment at will are the same in Alabama. Furthermore, you're right, you do know the risk when you go teach at a private school, religious or secular. The teacher above admitted that. However, even though same sexy marriage isn't legal in his state, they still fired him for getting engaged. Marriage is the issue here. America has become a place where people can disguise a multitude of sins and hide behind their religion to claim it's their right to discriminate.

Jonah said...

In other news, Joseph Goebbels is irritated that the Church won't baptize his kids.