A Catholic school in Moorhead, Minn. has declined to offer a contract to a longtime teacher after learning she supports same-sex “marriage,” drawing media attention ahead of the November vote on the state’s marriage amendment.
St. Joseph’s School superintendent Msgr. Mike Foltz and principal Tony Biebl explained the decision in a June 6 letter to parents of children at the kindergarten through eighth grade school.
They said “as a school, we hold ourselves to a standard to embrace and hold dear the Church’s teachings, particularly Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.”
The principal and superintendent said they have a “fiduciary responsibility” to parents and students, to the two parishes that support the school and to the universal Catholic Church to be “exactly what we are, a Catholic-Christian school.”
They voiced appreciation fifth grade teacher Trish Cameron’s “many gifts and talents” and expressed “sadness” at the outcome.
The school declined to offer a contract to Cameron, who had taught at the school for 12 years. In a self-evaluation, she had said that she does not agree with all Church teachings “on a personal level,” adding that she does not bring her opinions into religion classes.
The response led to further discussion, Cameron said in a June 3 letter the school sent to families of the schoolchildren.
“I clearly stated that I have an issue with the Catholic Church’s position on gay marriage -- I do not agree with the Church’s stance,” she explained.
She said that Msgr. Foltz had told her he could not offer her a contract while aware of her dissenting opinion. She agreed to write a statement of resignation.
“This is not the outcome that I wanted, but I understand the decision because of the underlying nature of the issue,” she said.
Msgr. Foltz and Biebl said the resignation was handled with “diligence” and seriousness, saying that the outcome left the school with “an air of sadness.”
Cameron said she believes her firing was unjustified but she is not planning legal action.
While she initially did not speak on the issue except for her letter to the school’s families, she has since criticized the school in comments to Minnesota Public Radio. She said she objected to Bishop Michael Hoeppner of Crookston’s support for the state’s proposed marriage amendment in a classroom visit last fall.
Cameron said that she won’t turn away from the Catholic Church in the near future, but also said if the Church does not engage questions about same-sex marriage she will find a different place to worship.
This November, Minnesota will have a ballot measure to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman. The state presently defines marriage as such a union, but amendment proponents want to prevent the legislature from redefining marriage to recognize same-sex couples as spouses.
The effort has the backing of the Catholic bishops, though proponents of marriage redefinition have engaged in activism to try to split Catholic voters.