Church Worker Dispute Unites Community, Prompts Students to Come Out

Dowling Catholic students gathered in prayer during the walkout.

Though church officials’ employment disputes with LGBT church workers continue, faith communities are increasingly resisting such discrimination being perpetuated in their names. The community of Dowling Catholic High School, Des Moines, Iowa, site of one of the most recent cases, is a perfect example.

A moment of healing and unity occurred when more than 150 people prayed together following a student walkout on Wednesday. As one student described it:

“Students spoke their minds, spread words of love, held hands in prayer and even mustered up the courage to come out as gay/lesbian/bisexual in front of their peers.”

In prayer, those gathered were protesting the school’s decision to deny Tyler McCubbin a teaching job for being openly gay, while at the same time they were making known their support for LGBT students. Sophomore organizer Grace Mumm told The Des Moines Register:

” ‘I just want the community to know that this is a really important topic, and that just because our school officials or diocesan leaders might have made this decision, it does not directly reflect what we believe as students.’ “

Parents and alumni expressed their concerns to The Register, which ranged from the negative impact on educational quality and fundraising to the anti-Christian nature of such acts and how they turn young people away from faith. Brendan Comito, a parent and alum, said:

” ‘It saddens me that our school treated someone in that manner. I don’t think this is how Christ would act’…[School officials] are missing out on a lot of talented people who can have a positive impact.’ “

Message from Tyler McCubbin in Facebook group

Tyler McCubbin’s message to a Facebook group of his supporters.

Concerns are also high about the wellbeing of LGBT and questioning students at Dowling Catholic, as such youth can be particularly vulnerable to mental health issues, self-harm, and suicide in such a formative life moment. McCubbin applauded students for “exercising their right to protest in terms of social justice,” adding:

“I want those students to know I want to be there for them, but I’m not allowed to be there because I’ve been true to myself…I hope there is a continued dialogue about discrimination and religion…The two together in the same sentence is a big oxymoron. It’s ridiculous that an institution that preaches peace and tolerance and so many great things about human beings can still discriminate against people who are just themselves.’ “

The school announced it will not be disciplining students who participated in the walk out, according to marketing manager Tara Nelson. Officials did, however, send letters to parents and alumni to explain their reasons for denying a contract offer to McCubbin. Reports indicate that due to Iowa’s religious exemptions in nondiscrimination laws, Dowling Catholic administrators are on firm legal ground in their decision.

The school’s negative decision, however, has become a rallying point for positive developments to emerge.

Kate Courter, a junior at Dowling, said she was able to come out to her parents as bisexual because the incident was being discussed at home and other students came out as gay and bisexual during the walkout rally.

Elsewhere, students began a petition, accessible here, asking the school to sponsor an LGBT support group and organizers are meeting with Dowling administrators to discuss how the school can better care for its students.

Faithful America, in their own petition here, is asking Des Moines’ Bishop Richard Pates to end the de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the diocese’s Catholic institutions.

More than 2,100 people have joined the Facebook group “Dowling Catholic Alumni, Faculty, and Students Against Discrimination” and are organizing around the hashtag, #DowlingCares.

Share this graphic on Facebook!

Share this graphic on Facebook!

Despite the tragedy of the school’s action, these acts of resistance are hopeful signs for the church’s future. To educate and minister to God’s people requires that church workers be their truest selves, ministering in openness and authenticity. For the good of the church’s mission, LGBT church workers must be welcomed to live as God created them so they can share their gifts with the students.

The intensity and frequency of movements to support church workers is increasing. Local communities, often led by high school students, are less and less afraid to say “no” to LGBT injustices committed by church officials. In a twist, their actions show how, contrary to discriminatory policies, Catholic schools are succeeding at forming students for a lived faith that does justice.

To lend your support, consider signing the above petitions or voicing your support on social media.

For Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of these and other LGBT-related church worker disputes, click the ‘Employment Issues‘ category to the right or here. You can click here to find a full listing of the more than 40 incidents since 2008 where church workers have lost their jobs over LGBT identity, same-sex marriages, or public support for equality.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

8 replies
  1. Terrance Wagner
    Terrance Wagner says:

    This is what I call a real abuse of power. It is so very sad. But we do have some bishops and archbishops that have not gone on a discriminating rampage. The new Archbishop in Chicago made a statement that the communion rail should not be used as a threat. These bishops, cardinals should return to the roots of the Catholic church when Jesus was on earth. You never saw any of the apostles walking around in pretty gowns and fancy lace tops. We never see pictures of Jesus all dolled up. I wonder where they came up with all of these items to glorify themselves and then sit in judgement of others. It is so sad to see church leaders treating people so bad. What these leaders do not realize is that the young faithful catholics will not accept their ideas. God bless all of those who have mercy and support those of a different sexual orientation. I love both of my two girls and would not trade them for anything. But it would have been better if back in 1959 if I could have said I am gay. No I tried my very best in being straight and I failed. I am now a happy person. God bless all of the men and women that have adopted the children that no one wanted. God will bless you always for your love and kindness.

    Terry Wagner
    Naples, FL

  2. amagjuka
    amagjuka says:

    I am so happy that this community is demonstrating against the unfair treatment of this teacher, Tyler McCubbin. I think I read that he was told he could not be hired because he was engaged, and living an “open” homosexual life. How ridiculous! The stance of the church is that if you hide in the shadows, never admitting who you are, it’s ok, but if you want to be honest, and declare your fidelity to another, as heterosexual people do, you are unworthy? When straight couples declare their love and fidelity, there is an entire community response of supportive embrace. For LGBT people, this is yet another opportunity to abuse, isolate and marginalize?! There is so much wrong with this. Thank goodness parents are saying, “No! this is NOT the message we want to teach our children!” I recently heard a podcast where a man outlined the stages of support Christians have for their LGBT brothers and sisters. They were something like, “The LGBT person is wrong, but I do not support violence against that person.” The second one is “The LGBT person deserves respect, and no violence, but I don’t want to talk about this subject.” Third is “I will speak up when I see injustice or violence.” Fourth is “My LGBT brothers and sisters should be full members of my church/society and I will fight for equality.” They are something like this–

    I am frustrated because I cannot remember the guy’s name or the exact four stages. But he talked about an important concept, and that is verbal violence. It is verbal violence every time an LGBT person is told that if he/she hides, he can stay, but if he/she is honest, he must be fired, marginalized, and expelled from the community. Every time an LGBT child hears gay slurs, sees significant adults like parents and clergy saying how sinful he/she is, it is verbal violence. We must stop the madness and the violence. Catholics will not accept this bigotry in our names. We will not be complicit with discrimination. Standing by and watching injustice in silence is a choice. We must choose to follow Christ and include all.

  3. Kat
    Kat says:

    So, let me get this straight. ?Forty people were fired from their jobs in Catholic schools or parishes because they are gay or because they did something wrong? The two are not synonomous, not even related. If the the Catholic church teaches that same gender relationships are sinful in and of themselves, and trys to force gay catholics into choosing celibate lives for themselves, this is not of God, but of the Church, The gay community and we as Christians are called to protest and speakup in the Church when we see blatant abuse toward others and lack of christian faithfulness to only one God.

  4. rachelfs
    rachelfs says:

    “Dowling” caught my eye since I graduated from St Joseph Academy (nowadays part of Dowling)…it is perhaps not possible to adequately describe the pride I feel in these teen agers. Because a person’s livelihood and community membership is at stake I do not mean that there ought to be a single martyr for the cause, and perhaps this is why I feel so keenly about these students. They will pay a price as they articulate their support for LGBT classmates/teachers/friends.

  5. Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM
    Rosa G. Manriquez, IHM says:

    When I hear the question, “Why aren’t the young people in church,” my thought is that they are busy being the church. I am so happy that an overwhelming number no longer connect church to the dictates of institutional administrators. They know that the Holy Spirit dwells within us and we witness the Good News of Jesus Christ when we live with integrity as Jesus taught us to live.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] commented on employment disputes over LGBT issues at Catholic schools in the neighboring states of Iowa and Nebraska.  Though neither case has been resolved with a gay teacher being allowed to work, […]

  2. […] students taking responsibility for justice at their Catholic institutions. In nearby Des Moines, hundreds of such students rallied and prayed earlier this week to protest a gay man being denied a teaching position. A similar movement […]

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