Lesbian Basketball Coach Denied Opportunity to Apply for Coaching Job

A basketball coach in Minnesota was not eligible to apply for a job at a Catholic high school based on the fact that she is married to a woman.

Katie Erbe-Shea is an alumna of Lourdes Girls High School in Rochester, Minnesota, where she was a basketball standout and helped her school’s team earn two state titles. She had been encouraged to apply for the position of junior varsity basketball coach by a school official, and she was excited about the possibility of returning to her alma mater.

Katie Erbe-Shea

But before she’d sent in her application, Erbe-Shea was informed by the same school official that her “lifestyle choice” would prevent the possibility of her employment. She was told that the decision came from Father Peter Schuster, co-chair of the trustees board of Rochester Catholic Schools.

“I was pretty much offered the job,” she said to the Med City Beat, “and then the next day, I was told I would never be able to coach for them.”

Because she had never officially submitted an application, there are no technical grounds on which to claim employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and marriage to a same-gender partner. In the Post-Bulletin, Erbe-Shea said that this situation is where “the line is kind of gray.” Since she did not submit an application for the job, she cannot prove how her candidacy would have been evaluated.   Even if she had applied, however, Lourdes Girls High School is a Catholic school and religious exemption laws could apply to them.

The Med City Beat reported that Erbe-Shea doesn’t feel that the athletic department of the school is to blame – but, instead, the Church as a whole that needs change.

“What I do in my private life has nothing to do with what kind of coach I would be. I think I would be a great role model for these young girls,” she said.

A 1995 graduate of the school, Erbe-Shea was a “three-year basketball letter-winner … who helped lead the Eagles to two state Class A basketball championships,” according to the Post-Bulletin.”

These kinds of instances only serve to create a bigger chasm between the LGBT community and the Catholic Church, as well as between youth and the church institution. When LGBT people are not welcomed, or t their gifts and talents are not valued, the Church needs to acknowledge its wrongdoing. As regular readers of Bondings 2.0 will know, employment disputes like this are happening in schools and parishes across the country and around the world.

A sports coach position has nothing to do with Church teaching on sexual orientation.  What happened to Erbe-Shea sends the message to students that any member of the LGBT community is not welcome, even in small roles.

While the Church has evolved, these smaller instances show room for much-needed growth and change. The Church should listen to its members, and consider them as whole people – not just by their orientation or marital status.

Lindsay Hueston, New Ways Ministry, July 10. 2018

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