Gay Music Teacher Forced Out of Catholic School for Upcoming Marriage

Brian Panetta and his fiance, Nathan David

Yet another LGBT church employee has been forced out of a job, this time in Ohio where Brian Panetta resigned from Sandusky Catholic High School (near Cleveland) upon announcing his engagement to his partner, Nathan David.

Panetta received a January 3rd letter from administrators of Sandusky Central, where he has worked since 2009, terminating his employment because of violations of the Catholic Church’s teachings as the reason for his termination. Panetta had previously suggested to administrators  that he resign at the academic year’s end to avoid conflicts over his upcoming same-gender marriage. The Sandusky Register offers further details, including comments from the music teacher:

“On Thursday, however, Panetta met with school administrators, a priest and representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, who offered more information and agreed he could resign instead of having a termination on his record, he said.

” ‘I’m satisfied with their explanation, and right now I’m just praying for understanding and strength,” Panetta said. “It’s hard for me to walk away, but it’s what’s best for me personally, and I hope my students will understand that.”…

“Their relationship wasn’t a secret to the Sandusky Central Catholic School community, as David often attended school events and met several students and their families, Panetta said.

” ‘This community has been like a family to me, and I’ve always had nothing but support,’ Panetta said. ‘I never had to hide.’ “

Seen in the light of his strong Catholic identity and strong work record, this choice seems even more difficult.   The Sandusky Register notes:

“Panetta identifies as Catholic and attended Catholic school for grades K-12. He said working at Sandusky Central Catholic School was an ideal first job.

“In his four and a half years working there, Panetta grew the school’s band from 18 to about 50 members, and also produced similar numbers for its choir. He oversaw band for grades 5-12 and choir for grades 7-12.”

In a letter to the school community, the teacher expanded upon his decision to resign:

“As a proud and gay Catholic, I understand the Church’s teachings on marriage and agree that my engagement is a public statement of my position for marriage equality, which the Catholic Church does not yet support. I am hopeful to see change in the future, but until then I am praying for strength and understanding and encourage my students to do the same.

“Over the last four and a half years, the Sandusky Central Catholic community has become like a family to me. I am proud of the work that I have accomplished and take comfort in the fact that I am leaving SCCS and its department of music in better condition than when I first arrived.”

Poor and unjust employment policies not only hurt fired employees, but leave Catholic schools bereft of talented and demonstrably qualified teachers. Equally valuable is the positive role model Panetta and other LGBT employees provide as out and practicing Catholics who harmonize faith and sexuality, which can support students’ development.

This resignation is only the latest in a string of discriminatory firings of LGBT people and their allies in Catholic institutions, which you can read more about by clicking on the ‘Employment Issues‘ category on the right side of this page. You can also take action to stop these firings by implementing inclusive non-discrimination policies at your Catholic school or parish.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

12 replies
  1. David J. Martin
    David J. Martin says:

    Growing weary of the hypocrisy and bigotry preached in word and action. The Church administrators state a music teacher does not support Catholic teaching ” Neither, they, do gym teachers – how about the janitor who may not be Catholic or say a Hindu or Muslim ? The main problem with Catholicism is a lack of acceptance of differing opinions regardless of how loving a life a person may be. This is certainly NOT the Gospel preached by Jesus and thus, the Church does NOT speak for them. I call myself a “disciple of Christ” – not a Christian or Catholic for these names have become repugnant to me as well as others. Though I worship at my Catholic parish – it is one where the true meaning and life of Jesus hold firm to the Only One Law – Commandment issued by Christ on Resurrection Sunday: To love others as He has loved us.
    The mindless nit-picking Canon of Church Law be damned ! Love one another and live that command and you will be good with the Father. namaste

  2. Tim MacGeorge
    Tim MacGeorge says:

    Reblogged this on Image and Likeness and commented:
    I lived in Sandusky for seven years as a youngster. Sandusky Central Catholic High School (formerly St. Mary’s Central Catholic High School) is associated with St. Mary’s Parish, while we attended Sts. Peter and Paul. Although my ties to Sandusky are from long ago, I still have family connections there. This action — as every other action in which a faithful LGBT Catholic loses his or her job for being honest and true to themselves as God created them — makes me so very sad. I pray the students, other teachers, and families of SCCHS speak out loudly and clearly in support of Brian Panetta.

    • DCfred
      DCfred says:

      Tim- actually the community is not saying much, other than repeating talking points that he broke his employment contract. The students and parents are devastated. But Sandusky is still stuck in the 50s. People in other cities are more outraged, like the Catholic students in Seattle…go figure.

  3. Matt Dunn
    Matt Dunn says:

    Other stories in the Sundusky paper report that an out lesbian faculty member in a relationship was allowed keep her job at the same school because she’s part-time! Follow that logic! And the straights engaging in birth control, pre-marital sex, divorce, etc. are always off the hook. It’s like a witch hunt against the gays, yet the entire spectrum of sexual ethics and justice is flawed. And never mind that someone can be Catholic and still follow his/her conscience.

  4. Annette Magjuka
    Annette Magjuka says:

    It is unbelievable that in 2014, with biological science settled (being gay is not a choice), that the Catholic church is engaging in this witch hunt. They are harming so many, gay and straight. Those who are fired are obviously devastated, but what is the church teaching their young people? Not the love of Jesus. Not the social justice teachings of the Catholic church. Those who carry out these firings are the “little monsters” Pope Francis warned us about. The faithful must rise up and be heard, and we must never be silent until this stops. STOP THE FIRINGS IMMEDIATELY must be our message. No donations to any parish involved in this behavior. Then we must keep talking about the draconian laws passed in Africa and demand a strong and supportive statement from the Catholic church for LGBT people in Africa.

  5. Friends
    Friends says:

    Clearly, as other commentators have posted, this is an abomination of injustice. However, I’m also struck by the fact that the name of the school is “Sandusky”. It leaves me wondering if, through some bizarre twist of irrational paranoia, the school administration is trying to distance itself as far as possible from the implications of permitting gay faculty or staff to interact with their students. If the reference isn’t ringing any bells, just Google “Coach Sandusky”, and all will become immediately clear. Yes, of course it’s completely crazy — but so is the abominable irrational homophobic bigotry at the root of these firings. We seem to be entering medieval “Witch Hunt” territory at this sad point in our planetary history.

  6. Valerie
    Valerie says:

    Sandusky?! Isn’t that the coach who raped all of those boys? Why doesn’t the school put their energy into changing the name back to St. Mary’s instead of going after good people who just want to commit themselves to each other. They’re straining gnats and swallowing camels.

    • Friends
      Friends says:

      Hee Hee! Jim nailed it! They certainly are a very handsome and attractive couple, who shine with total love for one another. Who would NOT want to have them around?


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  1. […] to the firing of Brian Panetta, a music educator at St. Mary Central Catholic High School in Ohio, The Toledo Blade echoed Panetta […]

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