For what we can only assume is the 34902423rd time this has happened, a teacher married to a same-sex partner was fired from a Catholic school.
This time, it was Sue Fustin, a science teacher in Decatur, Illinois. Fustin’s educational career is about as impeccable as it gets. She was a longtime science teacher before becoming a principal. It was only after she formally retired that she opted to give it another go at a local Catholic school that needed some help.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School was in desperate need of a science teacher. Fustin was available and eager to jump back into the classroom. It sounded like a win for all sides.
But there was the obvious problem: Fustin was married to a woman and she was aware that this was a problem in the Catholic Church. That’s why she raised the issue before she even signed the contract:
Fustin said at the time she inquired to the hiring principal, Theresa Bowser, asking if teaching would be an issue because of her marriage.
“And Mrs. Bowser again, very professionally, is like ‘I don’t care. I need a teacher,'” said Fustin.
Everything was working just fine… until some parent snitched on her. Someone found one of Fustin’s wedding photos online and sent it to the priest overseeing the school, Michael Friedel.
Fustin was soon told her contract wouldn’t be renewed next year… before they told her, whoops, no, we’re just gonna fire you now.
While she’s had an outpouring of support from parents and other teachers, she said this is discrimination, adding, “I have never felt so demeaned, I’ve never felt my dignity ripped from me professionally like this.”
“I don’t understand all that much more about the Catholic Doctrine, but if people are divorced, but yet still work there. If people are living with other people and have children out of wedlock, but they still work there. I don’t understand why me being gay is any different then those things,” she said.
Fustin plans to seek legal counsel over her dismissal.
I feel like a broken record on this.
My heart goes out to Fustin, who obviously didn’t do anything wrong… but none of this should be shocking. She was working for the Catholic Church, not an institution known for basic human decency. Despite the assurances from the principal, why did she think she’d have a job once everyone else in charge found out about her marriage?
It’s irrelevant that there’s been this “outpouring of support” because the Catholic Church is a hateful organization that selectively discriminates against same-sex couples while ignoring all the other instances of employees violating Catholic doctrine. If they can’t directly see the sin right in front of them, like with a wedding photo, they’re fine just looking away entirely.
It may be unjust and unfair, but it’s not like the Church hides its bigotry.
And no amount of legal counsel is going to fix this situation. While there’s been some traction pushing back against Catholic schools that fire gay teachers who are not in a ministerial position, it’s a lot harder to claim religion is irrelevant to the job when it comes to a core class.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School has every right to promote it’s brand of Catholic bigotry, and that involves firing someone who did nothing wrong all because they disapprove of her “sin” while ignoring plenty of other ones. Yes, they’re hypocrites, Yes, the people running the school are heartless monsters who care more about adhering to archaic dogma than providing the best possible education for their students.
The solution here would be for decent parents with the ability to take their kids out of this school to do just that. Until then, Fustin’s only option if she’d like to continue teaching is to find a district that values her skills in the classroom instead of prying into what she does in her personal life.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)