Tensions in Cincinnati have been building since the Archdiocese released a new teaching contract which features an enhanced morality clause which, in part, focuses on LGBT people and allies. One teacher is standing by her gay son which means sacrificing her career, while other educators weigh their options under an impending deadline.
The new teaching contract explicitly bans public support for LGBT rights, forcing Cincinnati teachers to make tough choices. Educator Molly Shumate had to choose between her job and her gay son, Zachery. The Enquirer reports:
“Though a lifelong Catholic and devoted teacher, the lengthy contract’s starkly detailed restrictions on her personal life – and the freedom to publicly support her now 22-year-old son – stunned her.
” ‘In my eyes there is nothing wrong with my son. This is what God gave me and what God created and someone I should never be asked to not support,’ she said from her Butler County home.’
” ‘If my son were to say to me, “will you go somewhere with me that is supported or run by gays and lesbians,” I would have to tell him no, according to that contract. And if my picture was taken, what would happen?’ she said.
“So for the first time in 14 years of teaching, Shumate will not be signing the Archdiocese’s teacher employment contract for next school year. And when the last class bell at her Hamilton County school rings out the finish of the school year later this month, it will also toll the end of her Catholic teaching career.”
Shumate, who teaches first grade, went on to say that signing the contract would be like “telling my son I’ve changed my mind, that I don’t support him.” Her public stand against the new contract is the first by a teacher, but joins existing protests which reveal just how dissatisfied Catholics are with the archdiocese’s decision.
Details of the contract were first covered by Bondings 2.0 in March, but there is renewed interest as he end of this school year, which is the deadline for teachers to sign, approaches. In late April, educators from the archdiocese met with the head of the National Association of Catholic School Teachers (NACST) to discuss possible responses, including unionizing. WNKU reports:
“The president of NACST . . . . told the group they had no sense of empowerment and it was time for teachers in the region’s Catholic schools to say they’ve had enough…
“At the union meeting in Centerville [Ohio], representatives of 14 archdiocesan schools spoke about their rights as educators and people. One woman said she didn’t agree with the words of the contract but is a single parent with two kids and needs the job. Others said they won’t sign.”
Elsewhere, Catholics are acting in support of the 2,200-plus teachers who are affected by the contract. Thousands have signed online petitions and more than a hundred people marched on the chancery recently. A local Voice of the Faithful chapter put up twelve billboards asking, “Would Pope Francis Sign the New Catholic Teacher Contract?” Catholic lawyer Tim Garry, Jr. met with the archdiocese about modifying the contract to no avail, saying:
” ‘We’re attempting to help the teachers to have a voice in their contract…I doubt there is a more important contract in the Archdiocese, impacting more people, teachers, students and parents, than this contract with 2,200 or more teachers, 43,000 or so students and their parents.’ “
Cincinnati is not unique, with dioceses like Honolulu and Cleveland following suit, but it is a foreboding example of how damaging these type of contracts will be. Forcing educators to choose between the children they love at home and those they serve in the classroom is unjust. Curtailing the labor rights and conscience protections of church workers is inconsistent with the Church’s tradition. Worst of all, acting punitively against church workers is directly opposed to Christ’s witness in welcoming all.
Thankfully, church workers like Molly Shumate are taking a stand for LGBT people and a just Church.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry