Catholic High School Under Fire for Firing Sodomite

Fired Watterson teacher: Morality clause could be used against others

By JoAnne Viviano
The Columbus Dispatch
Wednesday April 17, 2013


A gay physical-education teacher who was fired from a Catholic high school in Clintonville said the morality clause cited in her dismissal could easily be used to fire any number of staff members who fail to follow all the church’s rules.

Carla Hale, who worked at Bishop Watterson High School for 19 years, was fired in March after an anonymous parent complained that the obituary for Hale’s mother listed the name of her female domestic partner.

Hale, and her attorney Thomas Tootle, said other Watterson staff members might be violating Catholic teaching by living with unmarried heterosexual partners, being divorced or using birth control.

“Where do you start and finish if you’re talking about immoral behavior within the Catholic Church?” asked Hale, who is Methodist.

The teacher’s dismissal caught attention this week after students and other supporters started an online petition seeking her reinstatement. The petition at was posted on Monday and had gathered nearly 8,000 signatures by this afternoon.

The policy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus says “Catholic school personnel are expected to be examples of moral behavior and professionalism” and a contract between the diocese and the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators can be terminated for immorality or unethical behavior.

The church considers gay relationships harmful and wrong. The diocese and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops declined to comment on Hale’s case.

Hale called Watterson “a great place to work” and hopes to return. She has filed a grievance based on terms of the contract.

If that fails, Tootle said, they could turn to a Columbus ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor to fire someone based on sexual orientation. A third recourse would be to pursue a wrongful-termination case before a Franklin County Common Pleas judge, he said.

Napoleon Bell, executive director of the city’s Community Relations Commission, said the Columbus ordinance has no exemption for religious organizations but the city has not received any complaints against religious groups.

However, Tootle said, courts have allowed certain religious exemptions to such laws.

Statewide, 17 cities have laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, according to Equality Ohio, which advocates for gay rights. Spokesman Grant Stancliff said the group is lobbying for a statewide law.

Eighty of Ohio’s top 98 employers have their own nondiscrimination policies, he said.

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