Gay Catholic school teacher ousted; Alter principal calls it ‘unfortunate’

Alter High School in Kettering
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Alter High School in Kettering

Alter High School recently non-renewed the contract of a longtime teacher who is gay, sparking anger from some in the school community over Catholic policies.

Alter Principal Lourdes Lambert said the contract decision was made by officials at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati after someone sent a “concern” about the teacher directly to the office of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr.

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Lambert said she was not trying to duck responsibility, saying, “I’m the Archdiocese, too.” She said she has not been told who the concern came from, but confirmed it had nothing to do with any incident between the teacher and students at the Kettering school.

She said the teacher — an Alter graduate who has taught at the school for more than 20 years — is finishing out this school year as students continue to learn from home, and the contract non-renewal is for 2020-21.

“It’s a very unfortunate circumstance for the teacher and the Alter community,” Lambert said. “Some things are taken out of our hands as an Archdiocese-owned school.”

The teacher declined comment Tuesday and is not being named in this story.

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Teachers in Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati schools sign an annual “teacher-minister” contract that includes an agreement to refrain from any conduct that is “in contradiction to Catholic social doctrine or morals.”

Examples listed in the contract include “cohabitation outside marriage, sexual activity out of wedlock and same-sex sexual activity,” among several others. The contract also says promoting such conduct as being acceptable also is a violation.

Several Alter High School graduates and supporters of the teacher argued on social media against the removal this week, with one calling the moving hypocritical and another saying she would stop donating to the school. Others praised the educator’s ability as a teacher, while one said the teacher displayed “Jesus’ teachings of love and acceptance.”

The school posted a statement on its Facebook page Monday, citing “a great deal of online and social media discussion” on the issue, and saying the school must “adhere to Archdiocesan policy.” The post later was taken down.

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The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ruled Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. But according to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, no Ohio law prohibits employment discrimination based on a person’s status as gay or lesbian.

Jennifer Schack, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese, said the church “values all of our teachers,” but she would comment only generally about personnel matters.

“Our Catholic schools expect teachers and staff to be witnesses to the teaching of the Catholic Church in both word and deed. Public witness is a critical part of Catholic education,” Schack said. “These expectations are clearly articulated in our teacher-minister contracts.”

Schack provided the Catholic Church’s official catechism, or teaching, which calls homosexual acts “acts of grave depravity,” and says “under no circumstances can they be approved.”

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The following passage of the church’s catechism says of people with “homosexual tendencies” that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” but that the church calls them not to act on their feelings, instead living a life of chastity.