A Catholic school in Lisle, Illinois will proceed with hiring an LGBTQ employee, reversing its initial decision to rescind a job offer from over the employee’s same-gender marriage.
Benet Academy’s Board of Directors released a statement Tuesday on the employment dispute over Amanda Kammes’ hiring as the school’s new lacrosse coach. The Board met Monday night, the same day students and community members protested outside the school and a petition in support of Kammes reached 4,000 signatures. In its statement, reported by WGN 9 the Board said, in part:
“The Catholic school had previously deferred its employment discussions with Ms. Kammes upon learning that she is in a same-sex marriage. The school’s Board determined that Ms. Kammes’ background and experience made her the right candidate for the position.
“The Board has heard from members of the Benet community on all sides of this issue over the past several days. We had an honest and heartfelt discussion on this very complex issue at our meeting.”
For her part, Kammes issued her own statement, referencing her status as a Benet Academy alum and the support she received from that community:
“It’s been 20 years since I walked the hallways of Benet Academy, and yet, never in my life have I been prouder to be a Redwing. The past week provided a chance for Benet to rally together in the name of community, sportsmanship, and social change, and I’m beyond grateful that Benet reconsidered their decision. . .
“I am truly humbled at the outpouring of support. This community is full of highly intelligent, driven, socially aware and passionate people who will always stand up for what is right. I am encouraged, ready to move forward, and coach Benet’s girls’ lacrosse team to success on and off the field. GO REDWINGS!”
Supporters of Kammes also applauded the decision. Colleen Savell, the assistant girls lacrosse coach at the school who first posted about the employment dispute on Facebook, wrote: “Wow — so proud of the girls lacrosse team, parents and the Benet community. Make sure your voice is heard and ALWAYS speak up for what is right.”
But for some, the initial decision to rescind Kammes’ hiring has exposed larger problems related to inclusion at Benet Academy. KP Mendoza, an LGBTQ alum, said he “didn’t really feel safe coming out of the closet or safe exploring what sexuality meant to me” while attending the school. Savell told ABC 7:
“‘It’s definitely not over. . .We definitely got what we wanted with Amanda being reinstated, but there is still more to be done and more change that needs to happen.'”
The Board seems to recognize the need for more engagement with LGBTQ issues, adding in its statement:
“Going forward we will look for opportunities for dialogue in our community about how we remain true to our Catholic mission while meeting people where they are in their personal journey through life. For now, we hope that this is the first step in healing the Benet community.”
Benet Academy’s decision to proceed with hiring Amanda Kammes is a rare victory for LGBTQ church workers who lose their job over one’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or relationship status. But it proves that students, alumni, and community members raising their voices in protest when discrimination occurs can have a positive impact. School officials, too, deserve credit for listening and then acknowledging they got it wrong.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, September 23, 2021