Amid New Firings, Z Day of Action Provides New Source of Hope

Matthew Barrett, right, and his husband Ed Suplee

As Catholic Schools Week concludes, details of new employment issues emerge, even as a leading national publication praised the Seattle area’s Catholic high school students who are protesting the firing of Mark Zmuda for their principled and persistent activism.

In one new case, Matthew Barrett has filed a complaint against Fontbonne Academy, a Catholic all-girls high school in Milton, Massachusetts, saying that a job offer was rescinded. Hired as the food services director at the school in July 2013, Barrett had listed his husband as an emergency contact.  After doing this, he said he was called to the school and the  employment offer was withdrawn. The complaint is with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, about which The Boston Globe reports:

“Barrett’s complaint, which may be the first of its kind in the country, comes at a time when religion-based schools in the increasing number of states where gay marriage is legal have been scrutinizing hiring and employment practices to ensure they conform with the pillars of their faiths…

“Barrett’s attorney and other supporters argue that officials at Fontbonne went too far in rescinding its offer for a job that has nothing to do with the school’s religious mission.

” ‘There is a balance between important values, which are religious liberties, and discriminatory practices,’ said Bennett Klein, a senior GLAD attorney. ‘This is a job that has nothing to do with religion . . . and this weighs toward discrimination.’ “

Massachusetts includes sexual orientation within its anti-discrimination law, and the debate is over whether a food services director is included under the so-called “ministerial exemptions.”

Orlando Jimenez

Orlando Jimenez

In New Mexico, a parish musician was also fired recently for marrying his husband. Orlando Jimenez served in several roles, including pianist, at Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish, Las Cruces.  He was asked to resign by the pastor, Fr. Bill McCann.  Jimenez agreed, acknowledging complaints from parishioners about his marriage.

However, Jimenez challenged the pastor’s rejection of him to play at services for which a family, and not the parish, pay the fee. This type of  work makes up a significant portion of the musician’s income, and Jimenez told KVIA 7:

” ‘It’s very hurtful, it’s very, very hurtful. I’ve tried to maintain my position as strong about this…I’ve tried to remain strong about all of this, but it really took a toll on me. I just never thought they would go this far, that he would go this far.’ …

” ‘I don’t understand how I’m supposed to make a living…Because a lot of requests I get are here at the cathedral, to provide music for quinceaneras and even funerals. Especially if he knows it’s a big part of my ministry.’ “

Today’s “Z Day” of action led by Seattle Catholi high school students is a model for LGBT activism, said Keegan O’Brien in The Nation:

“In a time when LGBTQ people still face powerful and well-funded opposition to equality, where Democratic “allies” continue to stall and put LGBTQ issues on the back burner, where mainstream LGBT organization stubbornly persist with their narrow, ‘don’t rock the boat strategy,’ where our victories remain tenuous and fragile—as the recent episode in Utah demonstrates—the bold, defiant and unapologetic character of Eastside Catholic High School students serves as a model to the LGBTQ movement for how to struggle and fight for the changes we urgently need and deserve.”

For further details how you can participate in Z Day from around the world, please visit or click here. Eastside Catholic High School’s students are proving that when LGBT church workers are fired, these injustices do not have to be the last word.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] the idea of who is “ministerial.”  One only has to think of the tragic case of a gay food service director denied employment at a Catholic school because he was married to a man to see the problem with this type of […]

  2. […] people gathered at St. Joseph parish, Seattle, for the panel event which ended “Z Day” demonstrations on January 31st. The panel included Cleve Jones, a nationally-known LGBT advocate, […]

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