A coalition of Catholic organizations that work for LGBTQI equality has launched a website to combat unjust hiring and firing practices targeted at LGBTQI individuals at Catholic institutions, including schools, hospitals, parishes and social service organizations.
ChurchWorkerJustice.org is a project of the Equally Blessed coalition and was developed in collaboration with leaders from Call To Action, DignityUSA, and New Ways Ministry, and in consultation with canon and civil lawyers, theologians, ordained clergy, religious leaders, and fired church workers. This new web resource aims to provide legal, practical, and theological resources to three affected populations: (1) church workers who have been fired or who are in fear of losing their jobs, (2) church administrators who wish to learn how to protect valued but vulnerable employees, and (3) communities who are forced to grapple with the expulsion of LGBTQI friends, family members, or colleagues due to sexual orientation, marital status, or gender identity.
“There have been few legal victories, and even fewer bishops have spoken against these discriminatory actions,” said Frank DeBernardo, Executive Director of New Ways Ministry, a member of the coalition. “But when a firing happens, Catholics have always stood with the church worker who has been discriminated against.”
Since 2007, some 80 church workers have gone public with their stories of losing their jobs in LGBTQI-related employment disputes, and countless more have suffered the same discrimination, but have kept their situations private. Many have been forced into silence due to non-disclosure agreements. “The decision to fire me stands in contradiction to who we are as Church and to Catholic social teaching,” said Margie Winters, a former teacher at Waldron Mercy Academy in Philadelphia who was fired after a parent complained that she was married to a woman. “This rejection comes from a church hierarchy that clings to teaching formed without the lens of current scholarship in scripture, psychology, or sociology, creating an unjust and harmful situation for all involved.”
According to a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of American Catholics support same-sex marriage, even though many LGBTQI employees are only fired after marrying their same-sex spouses or making their relationships public. Additionally, a 2015 study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that a solid majority (61%) of US Catholics express opposition to so-called “religious freedom” laws that allow businesses and other public service providers to discriminate against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation.
Zach Johnson, Executive Director of Call To Action, a member of the coalition, sees this resource as part of his organization’s commitment to “building a church that honors each person’s gifts, and that treats its workers fairly.”
“As we deal with the devastating effects of the sex abuse crisis in the church, this new resource is needed now more than ever,” said John Freml, coordinator of the Equally Blessed coalition. “Some people within the church have mistakenly equated homosexuality with the abuse of children, while ignoring all evidence to the contrary. And the unfortunate consequence is that LGBTQI workers in the church now have an even larger target on their backs, placing them in even more precarious situations than before.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA, a member of the coalition, further stated, “What is just and moral is for employees of Catholic institutions who are doing their job well to be treated with respect and not discriminated against because of who they are, whom they love, or what they believe. This must be the standard policy in our church. LGBTQI church workers shouldn’t have to live with the anxiety that someone could expose their identity on any day, and that their job could be taken away overnight.”
Equally Blessed is a coalition of three Catholic organizations that have spent more than 120 years working on behalf of LGBTQI people and their families. Collectively and individually, we are devoted to informing, supporting, and giving voice to the growing majority within the Catholic Church in the United States that favors equality under law for LGBTQI people.
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