Even amid the sweeping reforms of Pope Francis, change comes slow to a two thousand year old institution like the Roman Catholic Church. Recently, a disturbing trend has arisen in which LGBT teachers, often described as "beloved" by their students, are fired simply for being in a devoted relationship. Kristen Ostendorf, an English and religion teacher at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley, Minn., lost her job after acknowledging the fact that she was in a loving relation ship with another woman. Trish Cameron, a fifth-grade teacher at St. Joseph's Catholic School in Moorhead, Minn. who identifies as straight was fired after voicing her support of marriage equality in private. Ms. Cameron asserts that her opinions remain out of the classroom.
In support of their colleagues and educators, teachers and students have protested and written petitions in the goal of getting the teachers rehired. Yet, unfortunately, when parochial schools cite religious freedom as a justification for homophobia, they stand on firm legal ground. Private schools are able to terminate the employment of teachers and staff without much explanation if they belive that the individual does not live up to their standard of morality.
That's why organizations like New Ways Ministry's new campaign to stand with fired LGBT emplyees is so important. New Ways Ministry attempts to change the culture of the church, so that it as a body not only respects LGBT individuals, but includes them as full members. When LGBT employess and LGBT allies are fired from their job, a culture of discrimination is perpetuated in the curch. In their campaign, New Ways Minsitry outlines steps that supporters of LGBT catholic educators can take.
- Identify other people in your parish, school, or other institution who support LGBT equality. Brainstorm with them what might work best locally in your particular situation.
- Propose such policies to the various decision-makers in an institution. Don’t just approach the person at the top of the hierarchy (e.g., pastor or principal). Work with the “middle managers” who affect the decision makers, such as a parish council, a parent-teacher associations, a social justice committee, a diversity task force, or others who have influence.
- Collect signatures on a petition to institute a non-discrimination policy to present to the local decision-makers.
- Gather testimonies about how such firings reflect negatively on the Church’s image. Gather these not only from LGBT people, but from other Catholics who disagree with discriminatory employment practices.
- Gather testimonies on the spiritual gifts and professional skills of LGBT people from those whose lives are touched by them, such as parents, family members, friends, parishioners, students, colleagues, and alumni.
- Develop your arguments around the Catholic ideas of justice and equality. The Catholic social justice tradition protects the rights of workers, it respects differences among people, it promotes the equal treatment of all people, it respects everyone’s inherent human dignity.
- If appropriate, work regionally with other parishes, schools, and Catholic institutions in your area so that more than one place will simultaneously adopt such policies.
- Contact New Ways Ministry to consult about the particular situation in your community. We’d be glad to be part of your brainstorming and strategizing. Our phone number is 301-277-5674. Our email address is info@NewWaysMinistry.org
- Share your successes and setbacks with us so that we can better help others who want to establish such policies.
- Share the graphic above with your friends on social media. You can access it through New Ways Ministry’s Facebook page by clicking here.
New Ways Minstry's work is vital becuase the church, an orginzation which attempt to be an of temporal charity and reconciliation, cannot complete its more eternal ideals without accepting all people into its fold.
Read more about New Ways Ministry on their website