There was a press conference today, April 24, 2013, by Carla Hale announcing that she would not be reinstated for her job as a physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson High School. Carla and the Diocese had met on April 23, 2013 and the decision was made that her termination was upheld.
By all accounts, Carla Hale was an excellent physical education teacher at Bishop Watterson. She helped establish mandatory PE classes for freshmen and sophomores. She established optional PE classes for juniors and seniors, with demand for these optional classes exceeding the available space. Carla is obviously well qualified as a teacher and revered for her assistance by her students.
Some, if not all, of the staff at the high school knew that Carla was in a same-gender relationship. Whatever knowledge that the Diocese of Columbus knew about Carla’s relationship is unknown.
Once the relationship was made public, and a protest letter by a parent of a student was sent to the Diocese, the relationship could not be ignored. The “don’t ask; don’t tell” approach was breached to the public. The Diocese decided it had to take action. They fired Carla noting that her relationship was against the Catholic faith.
There was a time when students going to Catholic schools did not receive state or local tax money to contribute to the cost of the schooling. The Catholic schools were truly private schools, with parents paying the tuition and no taxpayer money was involved. That has changed in recent times, with students getting vouchers paid with taxpayer money that can be applied at the Catholic schools.
The quandary is that Bishop Watterson High School is located in the city of Columbus, and state and local tax money is made available to students attending the school. The city has an ordinance that declares discrimination due to sexual orientation to be unlawful. The Diocese says that same-gender relationships go against the teachings of the church.
Surely the Catholic Church is not against two people of the same gender loving each other. We are taught to love our enemies. We are taught to love those that hate us and persecute us. Jesus said that the only requirement to being His follower was to love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus didn’t put any restrictions on who we love.
We must then arrive at the conclusion that the Catholic Church’s issue is about sex between two people of the same gender. Would the Diocese of Columbus reinstate Carla Hale if she swore that she and her partner were in a celibate relationship? This is a philosophical point that bears consideration.
The essential part of the Columbus ordinance is that private sexual choices and actions cannot be used to discriminate against a person if these acts are not otherwise unlawful.
You can read an article from the Columbus Dispatch by JoAnne Viviano published on April 18, 2013 that discusses the Diocese of Columbus policy and the Columbus ordinance at http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2013/04/18/firing-of-gay-teacher-may-violate-city-law.html.
There is going to be a legal challenge by Carla Hale regarding her firing due to her partnering relationship. There may be a counter challenge by the Diocese of Columbus that they have the right as a religious institution to terminate an employee that does not follow their teachings.
The US Supreme Court has given certain privileges to religious institutions despite the supposed separation of church and state. If this challenge makes it to the US Supreme Court, it will provide an opportunity to again define the boundaries that a church can establish versus the laws that protect people from being punished for their personal relationships and behavior.
Don’t ask; don’t tell is not an option for Carla Hale or the Diocese of Columbus. Now the rights of the church are pitted against the rights of an individual to live their private life and still be employed by a religious organization. Short of divine intervention, this is likely to be a protracted battle over church versus state rights.