Ohio Teacher Dismissed for Same-Sex Relationship Reflects Conservative Trend in Catholic Institutions
The firing of Carla Hale, a long-time teacher at an Ohio high school, began with a complaint about a same-sex partner mentioned in the obituary for Hale’s mother, but the situation may prove to be a legal showdown for the rights of LGBT employees at Catholic institutions.
Bishop Frederick Campbell of Columbus claimed that he dismissed Hale, a Methodist who had taught physical education at Bishop Watterson High for 19 years, because her “quasi-spousal relationship” with another woman was in violation of church teachings and not, he specified, for her sexual orientation, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The paper further reported that there is a contractual basis for the diocese dismissing instructors on the basis of “immorality” or “serious unethical conduct.”
The former teacher’s move to contest the decision was not supported by her union, the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, though other local unions such as the AFL-CIO have passed resolutions supporting Hale’s request for reinstatement, according to the People’s World union website.
In a similar case, a Catholic school system in Wisconsin rescinded a job offer made to a man, allegedly because his same-sex roommate—not a romantic partner—was mentioned in his father’s obituary. Nick Johns, a former organist for a Georgia parish, claims he was dismissed because of information on his Facebook page indicating he was gay.
Prominent canon lawyer Fr. James Coriden spoke to the National Catholic Reporter about the spate of firings for same-sex relationships, stating that while church employees dismissed on grounds of morality are guaranteed recourse by canon law, in effect they have nowhere to turn: “Canon law doesn’t have much really to do with it.” Another canon lawyer, Fr. John Beal, said that the church was so committed to its stance against same-sex marriage and homosexuality that it “would rather let the institution close for lack of applicants than change the policy.”