DignityUSA and Dayton Community Protest Teacher Firing, Call for Contract Abolishment
In letters sent to the Archbishop of Cincinnati, DignityUSA, and the Living Beatitudes Community, a ministry of Dignity/Dayton, have strongly protested the decision to refuse contract renewal to a teacher who gave 23 years of exemplary service to a Catholic high school. A parent from the school presented a copy of the teacher's marriage certificate to the Archdiocese, showing he was married to another man.
May 11, 2020
Dennis M. Schnurr, Archbishop
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
100 East Eighth Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Dear Archbishop Schnurr,
We are writing as officers and Board members of DignityUSA to express our organization’s strong objections to the Archdiocesan directive to Archbishop Alter High School’s principal not to renew the contract of Mr. James Zimmerman, whom you have recognized as “a long-time and highly valued teacher.” Your words of praise and pastoral concern ring false and disingenuous in light of the termination, as they have when other bishops have fired valued and contributing members of Catholic institutions. Your statement reflects a total disregard for accepted science concerning sexual and gender identity and, therefore, stands as a direct contradiction to God’s creative work in this world. God does not make mistakes. God’s creation cannot be of itself a representation of evil or immorality.
The non-renewal decision was made after someone sent a copy of Mr. Zimmerman’s marriage certificate to the chancery, as a demonstration that he was violating the terms of his contract as an Archdiocesan employee. This malicious action against another human being should have been a cause for censure of the reporter, not a catalyst for the dismissal of someone students and parents credit as a strong, positive influence.
Catholics in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and far beyond clearly understand that this contract, and resultant terminations of hard-working, valued employees, are inconsistent with the core values of our faith. They are discriminatory, unjust, and reflect an outdated and false understanding of human identity. Mr. Zimmerman’s termination continues a pattern of denial of people’s humanity as God has made them.
In recent decades, Catholics have come to understand that sexuality and gender differences abound in humanity, that LGBTQI people can be just as true to our faith as others, and that holiness can radiate from the lives and loving of LGBTQI people. As has been made clear by the outpouring of support for Mr. Zimmerman and testimony about how he has instilled deep moral values in his students, Catholics have learned to judge people by their actions, not their identities. Clearly, a strong majority of the students, parents, alumni, and staff of Alter High School disagree with the dogma you cite as justifying this decision, and with the punitive conditions contained in the contract that teachers must sign. The wisdom of these Catholics must be heard and respected.
It is patently unjust that anonymous complaints about gay and lesbian people exercising their civil right to marry the person they love has resulted in the termination of employment for dozens of people in recent years. Over 80 such situations have been publicly reported, and we are aware of at least twice that number, many of whom contacted us for assistance but wanted their situations to remain confidential, due to concerns about children, family relationships, or fear going public would make obtaining another job more difficult. Our church, which has a proud history of asserting workers’ human rights, is now perverting that tradition based on a narrow definition of morality rejected by most Catholics. Whether the expectations of dogmatic conformity are embedded in contract language or just assumed as a condition of employment, they violate the fundamental human rights of the people employed in our institutions.
This contract also places pastors and administrators such as Mrs. Lambert in the horrific position of knowing that many employees are violating the contract, as every recent survey of Catholics demonstrates significant differences between their beliefs and behavior and official teaching. These leaders are left hoping no one will make an issue of this fact, leading to frustration and insecurity.
The contract forced upon Archdiocesan staff must be done away with. As the termination of Mr. Zimmerman and several prior situations demonstrate, its implementation leads to pain, division, and a perversion of true Catholic values. We call for the immediate suspension of the contract, re-employment of anyone terminated or threatened under its terms, and good faith negotiations with employees, families, and representatives of the Catholic community to establish conditions for a new, more just agreement between the Archdiocese and its employees.
We firmly believe that LGBTQI people deserve justice, equality, and full inclusion in all aspects of our church and society, including the ability to serve as teachers, staff, and administrators in Catholic schools. Our institutions’ employment policies and practices must be changed to achieve this. Failure to do so will undermine our collective ability to shine the Gospel light where it is needed.
Christopher Pett, President
Meli Barber, Vice President
Robert Butts, Secretary (Kettering, OH)*
Patricia Stricker, Board Member (Germantown, OH)*
* Archdiocese of Cincinnati
May 10, 2020
Reverend Dennis Schnurr, Archbishop
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
100 East Eighth St.
Cincinnati, OH 45202
Dear Archbishop Schnurr,
As the Board President of the Living Beatitudes Community in Dayton, a eucharistic ministry of DignityDayton and a Federation of Christian Ministries Community, I am writing to voice our community's strong opposition to the decision of the Archdiocese to non-renew the contract of a 23-year English teacher at Archbishop Alter High School. In a letter to the Alter Community posted on social media, you referred to this person as a "highly valued” teacher. It is our understanding that he was not renewed as a result of a breach of contract. According to multiple public posts on social media, this action actually came about because someone sent a copy of his marriage certificate to the Archdiocese, indicating he had married his male partner.
We are aware that just recently Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Binzer submitted his resignation to the Vatican. His refusal to fulfill his responsibility has harmed children. He continues to function and keep his retirement.
In contrast, Mr. Zimmerman supported and instilled character in his students, as a great educator does – yet he was removed. His teaching career with the Catholic Schools is derailed. The Auxiliary Bishop refused 6 times to report allegations of sexual abuse and he continues to have his employment
We ask that the Archdiocese take a strong lead to work actively for reform within the Catholic Church, in particular for the full inclusion of women and LGBTQ+ Catholics who are ready and willing to serve. Over time, rules have changed in the Church and it is time for some serious review of current practices in order to implement a more just and Christ-centered approach in our faith communities. A true effort at reforming the church will go a long way in helping today's young people find a spiritual home. If things do not change, it is likely that other Catholic schools will lose "highly valued" teachers, priests, and mentors, leaving a terrible void for the young people in our communities. We ask that you reconsider your decision regarding Mr. Zimmerman and offer to renew his contract so the Alter High School community may begin to heal. We prayerfully ask for your serious consideration of our request.
James W. Baker, Board President
Living Beatitudes Community
20 W. First St.
Dayton, OH 45402