Being Closeted at Work “Eroded My Dignity Over the Years,” Says Fired LGBTQ Church Worker

Allison King

A fired LGBTQ church worker has broken her silence and is sharing her story of discrimination in Catholic education, all in an appeal for readers to join the struggle for equality.

Allison King shared her story in Louisville, Kentucky’s Courier Journal to assert that the Archdiocese of Louisville discriminates against LGBTQ church workers. Her own firing happened in May 2018 after an administrator at Holy Spirit School where she was employed confronted King about her same-gender marriage:

“Four days before the end of the school year, I was summoned to a last-minute meeting with the principal and parish priest at Holy Spirit School. The priest began by saying he had heard nothing but good things about me. Then the principal read the following prepared statement:

‘It has been reported that you have introduced someone as your wife to some students. We are not here to determine what was said or to judge a lifestyle, but we need to know if it is true that you are married outside of the church and contrary to church teachings.

‘According to the Archdiocesan Catholic Witness policy, such an action is not consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church.’ “

 Because she acknowledged her marriage,the principal told King that  she could either resign or be fired. While King believed “they tried to act compassionately” by giving her the option of quietly resigning, she said that “hiding the truth just makes me complicit in supporting a culture of shame.” She had worked as a counselor in Archdiocesan schools for 11 years.

The incident arose after a parent reported her, which King said the principal had told her, even though the counselor never mentioned her wife to students. She explained that being private about her relationship “eroded my dignity over the years” as she was forced to share only “vague, genderless details about my personal life” and prohibited from engaging on a “more authentic level.”

Central to this firing is a “morality clause” the Archdiocese of Louisville imposes on its church workers. Known as the Archdiocesan Catholic Witness Policy, King explained it was introduced in 2016 after marriage equality was legalized in the United States:

“I agonized over signing it in 2016 and 2017, but ultimately did for several reasons. First, as an employee, especially a non-Catholic, I never dreamed that my employer would extend its reach that far into my private life. Second, my qualifications as a counselor were the same then as before I married in 2016, and during the first nine years I worked for the archdiocese. Finally, I know many administrators choose to ignore details of their employees’ private lives that may be objectionable in the eyes of the church, including things like the use of birth control and premarital cohabitation. To enforce the Christian Witness Policy, administrators would have to delve into peoples’ personal lives. It would force them onto morally uncomfortable and ethically shaky ground.”

Sadly, as in too many incidents of discrimination against LGBTQ church workers, King faced the consequences of Church officials who took that ethically shaky path of invading church workers’ personal lives. In the last decade, more than 80 LGBTQ-related employment disputes in the Church have led to church workers losing their jobs. A number of these disputes involved the unnecessary “morality clauses” which target LGBTQ employees despite Church officials claims to the contrary.  A number of these disputes were initiated by third parties who delved into the lives of employees and reported such information to the leaders of the place of employment.

Allison King concluded her essay with an appeal for readers to join the struggle for LGBTQ equality, specifically by participating in Louisville’s Catholics for Fairness Pilgrimage which took place on March 24, 2019 which ends with the celebration of Mass. Her story is a reminder not only of the tragic harm inflicted on church workers, but of so many church workers’ resilience in the face of such injustices that makes them leaders in the struggle for equality.

You can find a full listing of public LGBT-related church employment disputes by clicking here, as well as New Ways Ministry’s resources on church employment and LGBT issues available here. For more information on “morality clauses ” in church worker contracts, click here. For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of church employment issues, click the “Employment” category on the right-hand side of this page.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, March 25, 2019

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