St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, Oregon recently made the wise decision to hire Lauren Brown (below) as a teacher. She had a math degree from Lewis & Clark College, worked in the college’s admissions department after graduating, and was eager to work as a counselor at the Catholic school despite a pay cut.
Over the summer, after she had already accepted the offer, she told a school official she was gay. It wasn’t long before she was fired.
Here’s where things get weird. While Catholic schools have made a habit of firing teachers in same-sex marriages for violating Church doctrine on the issue, Brown wasn’t married. (She says she asked the school official what would happen if she did get married, while lawyers for the school said she planned on getting married in the fall.)
Then, to make matters worse, St. Mary’s offered Brown a full year’s salary along with benefits if she promised not to tell anyone why she got fired, thereby not creating a public relations nightmare for the school.
Brown didn’t agree to that deal. So let the nightmare proceed.
The Willamette Week has the story:
On July 22, Brown received an email from an administrator, asking her to complete a biography. “Tell us about your spouse,” says the email Brown showed WW. “Tell us about your children. Talk to us about YOU! It’s your choice as to what you would like to share!”
The next day, Brown says, [Principal Kelli] Clark called to encourage Brown to consider applying for an even more prominent job, director of admissions.
Brown says she asked Clark in that phone call what she should say in her biography, since she has a girlfriend. Brown also asked: Would she be allowed to bring her girlfriend to school events? What if she got married? She says Clark told her that was uncharted territory, but that Clark would support her.
Brown says Clark called back July 30 with a different message: “It may not work out.”
Brown met with Clark and Friedhoff at St. Mary’s on Aug. 4. She says the meeting lasted more than three hours, with both women pressuring her to sign a separation agreement that offered her six months’ salary in return for a promise not to sue the school or talk about why she lost the job.
(The agreement later changed to include a full year’s salary with benefits in exchange for Brown’s silence.)
It says a lot about Brown’s character that she declined the offer — and a lot of money — in order to go public with this story.
Brown declined. “To sign a contract that’s going to affect the rest of my life, and my passion for advocating for LGBT youth and LGBT people — there’s no way I could sign that,” Brown says. “I could never live with myself.”
While Catholic schools have every right to discriminate in hiring, that doesn’t mean it’s the ethical decision. So if they want to be bigots, fine, but parents who may want to send their children to the school should be aware of it. It’s also telling that Catholic schools are rarely this pro-active when it comes to firing teachers who have had abortions or who get divorced. The double-standard is incredible.
The school is already receiving backlash from graduates:
— Cameo Cheung (@cameomcheung) August 26, 2015
— brittany (@britty_d) August 26, 2015
It’s ironic that the school’s mission statement touts its “diverse community.” If only they were more up front about which kinds of diversity aren’t acceptable.
(Image via Lewis & Clark College. Thanks to Laura for the link)
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