Minn. Catholic School Fires Teacher Over Gay Marriage Stance
MOORHEAD, Minn. - A Catholic school in Moorhead terminated a fifth grade teacher after she told administrators she disagreed with the church's stance on gay marriage.
Trish Cameron was notified June 1 that she wouldn't be offered a new contract at St. Joseph's Catholic School. The decision came after Cameron filled out a self-evaluation form in which she admitted to personally disagreeing with the church's stance on some issues, but said she never brought those opinions into the classroom, The Forum newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/NotjYq ).
"We tend to focus on respect and love for one another and living out our call as servants whenever a 'political' topic crops (which it rarely, if ever, does)," Cameron wrote in a letter to families and staff at St. Joseph's after she was terminated.
Cameron wrote that her disclosure on the self-evaluation form led to a follow-up meeting with school officials in which she specifically voiced disagreement with the church's opposition to gay marriage. She was then asked to write a brief letter of resignation, she said.
Cameron had taught at the school for 11 years. Catholic schools are not bound by the same employment laws as public institutions and can terminate employees for not properly teaching tenets of the faith, although the law is less clear on whether they can be fired for privately held views not expressed in the classroom.
A constitutional amendment on Minnesota's ballot this fall, strongly backed by the state's Catholic leaders, asks voters if a ban on gay marriage in state law should be enshrined in the state constitution. The state's top Catholic, St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop John Nienstedt, has instructed Catholic priests that they must not openly dissent from the church's support for the marriage amendment.
An employee who answered the phone at the school Monday said that no administrators were available to comment on Cameron's termination. In a separate letter to families and staff, Principal Toby Bierl and Superintendent Monsignor Mike Foltz said Cameron was asked to resign because of "an unfortunate circumstance" related to St. Joseph's "fiduciary responsibility" as a Catholic school.
The letter from administrators praised Cameron as instrumental to developing the school's drama club and praised "her love of teaching and her kind and giving heart."
Cameron told the newspaper she wasn't ready to discuss the matter beyond what she wrote in the letter to school families and employees.
"I feel like perhaps there is a wave of interest that may need to come and go before I speak about this," Cameron said.