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An inspiring group of students from Bishop Watterson High School in Clintonville, OH rallied today in front of the Diocese of Columbus, protesting the firing of a gay teacher.

Holding signs with messages such as “Come together” and “We are all children of God,” students from the Catholic high school chanted and sang – a physical accompaniment to a change.org petition which has garnered over 60,000 signatures.

The circumstances surrounding the firing of Carla Hale, a dedicated physical-education teacher of 19 years, could not be more cruel or drenched with irony. After the death of her mother, Hale returned to school and, instead of receiving consolation and a loving embrace from administrators, was confronted about her sexual identity:
When Bishop Watterson High School teacher Carla Hale returned to work last month after her mother’s death, administrators at the Catholic school in Clintonville confronted her with a letter.

An anonymous parent had written to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus, appalled that Hale had listed her female partner’s name in an obituary.

Within weeks, Hale said, she was fired because she is in a gay relationship.

Hale was fired for "immoral" behavior, but she is challenging the firing on the grounds that it violates a Columbus city ordinance that criminalizes discrimination based upon sexual orientation.

The Catholic high school purports to teach its students about love, acceptance and tolerance. And from the students who showed up today in Columbus, it appears that such education indeed is being transmitted.

It's too bad the school's administrators don't believe in the message.


Originally posted to Writing by David Harris Gershon on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by Angry Gays.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (49+ / 0-)

    "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

    by David Harris Gershon on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:21:00 PM PDT

  •  No doubt they'll claim a "religious exception"... (12+ / 0-)

    ...to the ordinance.

    •  they'd have to argue the first amendment (4+ / 0-)

      voids the Columbus ordinance, which has no religious exemptions.

      •  If this actually goes to trial, rather than toward (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        a2nite

        a settlement, it will be an interesting case to follow.

        "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

        by David Harris Gershon on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:37:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  And they may or may not win with that, depending (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eyesbright, VClib

      on what the teacher agreed to in her job description.  

      According to a unanimous Supreme Court, if part of the job description was religious, if part of her job was leading prayers, for example, or if she even agreed as part of her job description to be a religious role model for her students, then her firing may well be legal despite the ordinance. It depends on what she agreed to when she signed on to the job, I think.  

      It's called the "ministerial exemption," although you don't have to be a minister to qualify.  

      For anyone interested, the Supreme Court decision is in a pdf here.

      •  Perhaps you missed the "physical-education" (6+ / 0-)

        teacher part of the article. She is not employed as a religious role model, and in fact is Methodist (as I learned in another article).

        "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

        by David Harris Gershon on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:50:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I Was Raised A Methodist (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Red Bean, Eyesbright, skrekk

          In the grand scheme of things we are kind of laid back IMHO. Now I am an atheist. But the church I was raised in literally has signs out front asking gay folks to come attend service.

          When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

          by webranding on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:58:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  That's completely beside the point (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eyesbright, absdoggy, VClib

          if you read Hosanna-Tabor.  The unanimous SCOTUS made clear that you can teach a secular subject AND still be subject to the ministerial exception. The teacher at issue in that case taught secular subjects.  The SCOTUS said there weren't defining specifically what it took for the exception to apply, but did clearly indicate that the fact that you spend the vast majority of your day teaching secular subjects was not dispositive.   (The teacher there spent like 45 minutes a day on religious things, if I recall correctly.)  

          Like I said, it depends on what she agreed her job description would be when she signed on.  If what she agreed to in her employment contract had some kind of religious element to it, her position could very well fit under Hosanna-Tabor.  If she did NOT agree to Catholic religious things in her employment contract, she has a much stronger case.  

          •  They are not citing religious clauses (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            skrekk, Calamity Jean, gramofsam1

            They are really citing morals clauses - see the dispatch article:

            According to a contract between the Columbus diocese and the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, teachers can be terminated for “immorality” or “serious unethical conduct.” George Jones, a spokesman for the diocese, had no comment yesterday, saying personnel matters are confidential.
            From an earlier article on dispatch's site:
            In a statement yesterday, the diocese said that personnel matters are confidential and declined to discuss Hale’s grievance. Catholic school employees, when hired, agree to abide by diocesan rules, regulations and policies, “including respecting the moral values advanced by the teachings of Christ,” the statement said.
            Which sounds like it agrees with your point, but is, in truth, subtly different.

            Why?

            Because they make no mention of her embracing a religious element in the execution of her teaching duties. (Which is what you are arguing would be an important distinction). Instead, they demand she never, ever say or do anything - in her private life - that could be construed as being below the high moral standards of the diocese. (Which presumably can now return to it's other business, like covering up the sexual assaults of small children, by priests).

            •  That doesn't help her case at all, I think (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              absdoggy, VClib

              If I recall correctly, a private entity can put a morals clause into an employment contract, and it's valid and enforceable.  If the employee violates the morals clause, that's grounds for termination.  By agreeing to that in her employment agreement, she is agreeing that "respecting the moral values advanced by the teachings of Christ" and abiding by diocesan rules -- even when she's not at school -- is part of her job.  

              You are right that there is a subtle difference, but that difference doesn't help her.  If this is what her contract says, the school no longer has to rely on a "ministerial exception" to the civil rights laws.  Now, they can say she violated her employment contract.  It would be the same as if a heterosexual woman had that in her contract and lived with a man outside of marriage.  

              •  I'm quite certain her attorney disagrees with this (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                skrekk

                precisely because, if it were this clear:

                By agreeing to that in her employment agreement, she is agreeing that "respecting the moral values advanced by the teachings of Christ" and abiding by diocesan rules -- even when she's not at school -- is part of her job.  
                then Hale wouldn't have a rational attorney touching the case.

                I'd argue that Tootle didn't take the case on a whim, or merely to pick Hale's purse at a moment of substantial weakness. This is because, as the Supreme Court case you earlier cited not now being relevant, this all rolls back to the contest between the contract language, and the city ordinance.

                It seems highly doubtful to me that the contract included morals clauses demanding the expansive probity in all private relationships you suppose. (On and off the job). In the end, that is what the diocese now demands, in contravention of the Columbus ordinance, because Hale is gay. And said as much. In an obituary. For her mother.

                •  Well, I'm a lawyer, and I think you are wrong. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  DAISHI, VClib

                  the fact that a lawyer takes a case does NOT mean it has legal validity or even that there is a reasonable probability of winning.  Sometimes lawyers take a case that legally is a loser in order to make a point.  

                  I live in VERY Catholic New Orleans, with a very pervasive Catholic school system.  From what I understand from friends who have taught, or are teaching in Catholic schools, they have to, as part of the job, agree to similar rules and agreements to abide by "moral" / religious rules.  That covers personal life -- teachers who openly live with a partner (heterosexual or homosexual) can be fired for that.  

                  Here's where I disagree with you:

                  It seems highly doubtful to me that the contract included morals clauses demanding the expansive probity in all private relationships you suppose. (On and off the job).
                  That's the complete opposite of what morals clauses usually mean.  Nobody has a clause saying "you have to abide by the teachings of Christ, you have to live a moral life, but only from 8 - 5."  Morals clauses, BY DEFINITION, apply to a person's personal life.  See here, for example.  See also here or here.  The whole POINT of those kinds of clauses is that you won't do things off the job that bring your character or reputation into question in the eyes of the employer's audience or clientele.  

                  I cannot imagine a Catholic school teacher's contract saying, You have to live a moral life in accordance with the teachings of our church, but only while you are on our school grounds.  That defeats the entire purpose. Say a religion prohibited alchohol, and a teacher in that religion's school agreed, as part of the contract, to abide by the religious principles.  You think that going out and getting publicly drunk every night - where the kids and the parents could regularly see him/her -- would NOT violate that clause?  You think being arrested for public intoxication would NOT violate that clause?  You think that having a picture in the paper of that person (here in New Orleans) on Bourbon Street with a drink in their hand would NOT violate that clause?  Of COURSE those things would.  Clauses like that always apply to your personal life -- that's why they are there.  The things that they prohibit are generally ONLY done in someone's personal life, not on the job.  

                  Most of the time, with a morals clause, nobody goes into your house to see what you are doing.  But if it becomes public -- "notorious" is a word some lawyers use --  like you walk down Bourbon street with a drink, or a unmarried woman having address that is the same as her boyfriend, or that it's published in the paper that you are in a relationship that violates the religious belief you have agreed to (in your contract) abide by, that's going to be a violation of your contract, if your contract includes that kind of clause.  

                  •  Completely agree with all elements (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    VClib, coffeetalk

                    You've argued coffeetalk. From my familiarity with prior cases dealing with these sort of issues and the expectations of a religious school for its employees to live up to moral clauses in both personal and private time, you've got it spot on. Lude photos, divorce, there's tons of cases where 'personal' behavior has resulted in firings because it violated the moral clause of their contract.

                    What a lot of people are missing are that often personal and public lives aren't differentiated from the perspective of the religious body enforcing the moral clause, and appropriate behavior is expected whether on the clock or not. A failure to live up to it on the personal level brings up the question of whether they are appropriately enforcing it on a public level.

                    From a historical perspective, the notion that public and personal lives are separate bodies may be accepted from legal and business perspectives (ideally), but from a religious perspective the two are entwined, if differentiated at all.

                    http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/ Jesus Loves You.

                    by DAISHI on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:56:36 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  FYI (0+ / 0-)

                      This is also why I'd make a poor minister or Christian instructor in the denomination I originally took Biblical studies in, since they have a moral clause against consumption of alcohol. Which I'm obviously violating in my profile photo :P

                      http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/ Jesus Loves You.

                      by DAISHI on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 08:58:08 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

            •  And what do the Gospels report (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              jayden, RunawayRose

              ..that Jesus said about homosexuality?

              Nothing.

              So according to the teachings of Jesus, they don't have a case. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

              Cogito, ergo Democrata.

              by Ahianne on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 09:28:48 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  It'll be very tough for the diocese to argue that (0+ / 0-)

            a gym teacher is a ministerial function.

            •  It depends on what her contract says (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              VClib

              it she spends time performing religious functions, or if her contract says something about her agreeing to be a religious role model, then it doesn't matter what she teaches.  

              The Court in Hosanna Tabor said that the fact that you teach secular subjects is not dispositive.

              I agree, that if her contract said that all she did was teach P.E., and she did not agree to do anything else, then there's no religious exemption.  But others are saying she specifically agreed, in her contract, to abide by archidiocese rules and to abide by the religious teachings.  Those clauses aren't generally limited to school conduct.  

              •  "Those clauses aren't limited to school conduct." (0+ / 0-)

                That's rather unlikely given that she's a Methodist.

                Sounds like she was hired for a non-ministerial job, and the diocese had no reasonable expectation that a non-Catholic would abide by Catholic dictates....especially in her private life.

                •  Coffeetalk is right. And more. (0+ / 0-)

                  The thing about religion is that it is whatever its adherents say it is. That's why there are so many Christian denominations--even starting with the same basic texts, Christians can't agree on what those texts mean.

                  You find the same splits in any other major religion--for instance, in Islam there are Sunnis and Shias and Sufis and other smaller sects, http://en.wikipedia.org/... and of course disagreements within each sect about important matters.

                  In the Bible there is plenty to support the idea that a believer's entire life should be service to and witness for God. Indeed, we Kossacks gleefully point out the hypocrisy of right-wing Christian Republicans who lead closeted gay lives, or vote against programs that feed the hungry, house the homeless, and care for the sick. We can't, with any intellectual honesty, say private lives should conform with publicly stated beliefs only when it's convenient for liberals.

                  Bottom line: if this officially Catholic school says its interpretation of Catholicism means employees must lead lives in line with Catholic doctrine, then to rule in favor of the fired teacher, a court would have to find the school is lying--that they don't really believe that, but are just making it up as a pretext for secular anti-gay prejudice.

                  Oh, and by the way, depending on state law, secular anti-gay prejudice may be a perfectly legal reason to fire someone. It is in a lot of states. And there's no federal law protecting employees against getting fired for being gay.

                  Nor does it matter that all Christians, thus all school employees, sin in some way. There's a big difference between:

                  (a) I sin sometimes because I'm a flawed human, and I'm trying not to, and I'm sorry, please forgive me and help me not to do it anymore; and

                  (b) what I'm doing is not sin and I'm not sorry for it and I intend to continue doing it.

                  "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

                  by HeyMikey on Tue Apr 30, 2013 at 07:21:31 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

      •  Yep, and since such a firiring would be "for (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eyesbright, ItsSimpleSimon

        cause" not only does she not get unemployment but it will be very hard for her to get hired by another school in the future.

        You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

        by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:51:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I hope that is not true - she has Mayor Coleman (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Throw The Bums Out, Ahianne, jayden

          in her corner. Coleman pulls a lot of weight in Franklin County. Should there be a need I'm pretty sure he could find her some gainful employment within the Columbus School District. He does have that much power.

          Hale also will file a complaint with the Columbus Community Relations Commission under a city ordinance that makes it a crime for employers to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Mayor Michael B. Coleman is among those who have publicly supported the teacher.
  •  The positive to come out of this is that many... (14+ / 0-)

    ... Bishop Watterson students and alumni will realize the hypocritical nature of their Church and its heirarchy.

    The few comments at the the Columbus Dispatch piece on this reveal a startling ignorance and simplistic bigotry that seems pervasive among the "true believers" in the Church's teachings.

    I don't think this teacher will get her job back. But she sure is proving to be an object lesson for her (former) students on how the supposed teachings of Jesus can be twisted and distorted in perverse and damaging ways.

    Calling other DKos members "weenies" is a personal insult and therefore against site rules.

    by Bob Johnson on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:40:03 PM PDT

    •  I suspect you're right about her not getting her (5+ / 0-)

      job back. However, I also agree that she has become a classic role model for her students, as well as a model for all that is wrong with such archaic discrimination.

      "If the Jew who struggles for justice for Palestine is considered anti-Semitic, & if Palestinians seeking self-determination are so accused...then no oppositional move can take place w/o risking the accusation." - Judith Butler

      by David Harris Gershon on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:52:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, but that's cold comfort considering she won't (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Bob Johnson

      be able to get unemployment and she will have a very hard time finding work as a teacher in the future (because it was a "for cause" firing even though the cause was stupid).

      You have watched Faux News, now lose 2d10 SAN.

      by Throw The Bums Out on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:53:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Got to listen to long discussion on this today (9+ / 0-)

      -and the consensus was strongly against the school and diocese. Not to be too much of a dilettante, but this firing was the talk of the beauty salon. It was predominantly a catholic crowd (but mostly living in the competing parochial high school's area). They were all very positive about the kids knowing where the right side of this discussion was. One elderly lady who was getting her helmet head teased out was vehement that it wasn't any kind of religious to hate people and that the fact the letter was anonymous meant that somebody was flat out being malicious, not being catholic.

      After a quick recap of the ridiculous tuition at this school (about $8000 annually), there was a quick discussion of the nuns on the bus and the investigation of american nuns.  To fill out the hypocrisy trifecta, they quickly moved on to a discussion about the popes, since they naturally made a link between Ratzy's cover-up of pedophiles and the hypocrisy of the church having a grudge about lesbians and nuns when they had male child molesters running amuck for decades. Sexism was the general verdict.

      The old catholic ladies getting their helmet hair for the weekend were having none of this bullshit today.

      "I'm not a humanitarian. I'm a hell-raiser." Mother Jones

      by histopresto on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 05:13:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bigots, behold the future. (10+ / 0-)

    Kids know what's right.

    "Every book is like a door"

    by Hammerhand on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 04:45:29 PM PDT

  •  A schoolteacher mourning (10+ / 0-)

    the death of her mother gets fired because her employer objects to the gender of her partner.

    When the story can be told that simply and clearly, whether the teacher gets her job back or not, it's a huge defeat for the forces of bigotry.

  •  20-minute interview w/Carla Hale and her partner (9+ / 0-)

    Heartbreaking.

    Seems like a truly, genuinely lovely person.

    Sad and enough to make you angry about this injustice.

    Calling other DKos members "weenies" is a personal insult and therefore against site rules.

    by Bob Johnson on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 05:12:59 PM PDT

  •  Maybe The Diocese of Columbus Deserves This (5+ / 0-)

    For responding to an anonymous complaint and then firing Carla Hale.

    The group Anonymous plans to look into the lives of other administrators working for the Diocese of Columbus.

    Anonymous Puts Diocese of Columbus On Notice

    "Here comes the landslide" Dick Morris

    by wild hair on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 05:14:13 PM PDT

    •  They can start with their priests; how many are (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      Child rapists?

    •  Maybe her attorney can put his ear to the rumor (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jayden, wild hair

      mill and learn things about the moral failings of male teachers. Then, he could compose a list of witnesses to depose, asking them about their own private lives for the purpose of establishing a pattern of male teachers being retained despite moral failings, but women fired for violations of the moral clause of their contracts. You think the Diocese would settle quickly?

      If male teachers were having affairs, cheating on their wives, then she could claim sex discrimination: male teachers with moral failings and violations of their employment contract weren't fired, or, they should be now that the Diocese knows about the affairs. If male teachers are then not fired, it is sex discrimination--firing a woman for violating her contract, but firing not the male teachers. I don't think a private Catholic school is exempt from THAT federal law.

      "Women shall not control their own reproduction." Fallopians 10:16 --Republicans' new Eleventh Commandment.

      by BlueMindState on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 06:52:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This is a great good-news story! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, jayden, blueoasis

    The kids are indeed alright!

    WE NEVER FORGET Modestino Valentino who lost his life in the Paterson Silk Strike

    by JayRaye on Fri Apr 26, 2013 at 05:23:55 PM PDT

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