The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the America’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organisation, today condemned another Catholic school firing of a valued LGBT employee as evidence of the church’s continuing efforts to punish workers who have legalised their unions.
Philadelphia-area teacher Margie Winters was fired from Waldron Mercy Academy, a private Catholic elementary school in suburban Merion where she was director of religious education, after two parents allegedly complained to the school and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia about the teacher’s marital status. Winters was married in Boston before she came to work at Waldron Mercy, a fact she says she disclosed to school officials at the time she was hired.
Winters’ firing was announced to parents in an email Friday from school Principal Nell Stetser, who praised the teacher for her “amazing contributions.” While many affiliated with the school “accept life choices that contradict current Church teachings,” Stetser wrote, “to continue as a Catholic school, Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings.”
A weekly column by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, published days after Winters’ firing, excoriated the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision making marriage equality the law of the land as “profoundly flawed,” and exhorted religious leaders to show no “weakness or ambiguity” on church doctrine in the face of the decision.
“It’s a sad day when our students must witness the cruel and flawed analysis of leaders like Cardinal Chaput,” said Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, HRC Foundation’s Director of Latino/a and Catholic Initiatives. “This sends a message that there is no place in the church for us, the LGBT faithful — even in places like Waldron Mercy, where inclusion and compassion seem to have been a hallmark.”
“We call on the school to reinstate Margie Winters, and look to the day when Catholic leaders like Cardinal Chaput have the strength and courage to embrace our lives, to allow us to earn an honest living, and to participate in the education of our children,” said Meléndez Rivera. “For guidance, Cardinal Chaput should look to the pews, where there’s more support for LGBT non-discrimination laws and marriage equality than even among the general public.”
According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 60 percent of American Catholics support allowing same-sex couples to marry legally, six-percentage points higher than Americans overall. And 71% of Catholics favor nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people, three-percentage points higher than Americans overall.
Parents supportive of Winters were reportedly planning to meet Wednesday evening. A parent hosting the meeting, Nancy Houston, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Winters’ firing is “not something we’re going to accept quietly.”
Winters, Houston told the newspaper, is a “perfect example of living a religious life.”