A teacher at a Catholic high school in Ohio has been let go for being gay.
The teacher at Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering, a suburb of Dayton, will finish out the current school year as distance learning continues, but his contract was not renewed for the 2020-2021 school year, the Dayton Daily News reports.
The Daily News story did not identify him, but a Change.org petition seeking his reinstatement identifies him as Jim Zimmerman, who has taught English at the school for 23 years. He is being fired because he is married to another man, according to the petition.
The school decided not to renew his contract after someone expressed concern to Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which oversees the school, Alter Principal Lourdes Lambert told the Daily News. She said she did not know who submitted the complaint but that it did not involve any incident between the teacher and students at the school.
“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.” But she said she was not trying to evade responsibility. “I’m the archdiocese too,” she said.
The Catholic Church considers homosexuality a disorder and same-sex sexual relations a sin. In the past few years, as marriage equality spread and eventually went nationwide with the the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling, teachers and other staffers at several Catholic schools and some conservative Protestant ones have been fired after it became known they were married to a person of the same sex.
Teachers in the Cincinnati archdiocese sign an annual “teacher-minister” contract in which they agree not to engage in or promote anything that is “in contradiction to Catholic social doctrine or morals,” including “cohabitation outside marriage, sexual activity out of wedlock and same-sex sexual activity.”
Many students at Alter consider Zimmerman their favorite teacher, and he is well-known even to those who have not taken his classes, the Change.org petition notes. “He is a teacher who does not just teach the curriculum but also teaches important life lessons,” and he consistently entertains and engages his students, the petition says. As of Wednesday morning, it had received more than 4,300 signatures out of a goal of 5,000.