A teacher who was recently fired from a Catholic school for planning to marry his partner of 20 years has now lost his other job, as music director at his church. And this firing may be even less justified.
According to STLToday, Al Fischer was fired from St. Ann Catholic School in St. Louis County, Missouri after an official from the St. Louis archdiocese overheard him talking about plans to marry his partner Charlie Robin in New York. St. Ann pastor Bill Kempf said in a statement, "With full respect of this individual's basic human dignity, this same-sex union opposes Roman Catholic teaching as it cannot realize the full potential a marital relationship is meant to express. As a violation of the Christian Witness Statement that all Catholic educators in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are obliged to uphold, we relieved this teacher of his duties." The Christian Witness Statement, which Fischer signed when he was hired at St. Ann four years ago, says he must "demonstrate a public life consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church" and "not take a public position contrary to the Catholic Church." Robin says he and Fischer didn't expect the statement to apply to their personal lives:
We just didn't realize we were making a 'public' stand. There's nothing that's been hidden about our relationship at any point. I go to the staff parties. I show up at the school concerts. ... It doesn't matter until somebody with the Archdiocese is sitting in the room.
Given that plenty of Catholic organizations do have gay employees, it's not unreasonable that Robin and Fischer thought their relationship was their business — especially since it was never an issue before. But the Christian Witness Statement may provide St. Ann with a little ass-covering. Fischer says he never signed any such contract at his second job, music director at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic Church. Nonetheless, after he was fired from St. Ann, St. Rose proceeded to fire him too, saying his upcoming marriage had become "too public of an issue."
In an editorial in STLToday, Tim Townsend writes, "Those whose lives don't conform to the deeply held and First Amendment-protected beliefs of the religious institutions they work for can't be surprised when that institution lets them go for publicly flouting those beliefs." But it was St. Ann that made Fischer's marriage public, by taking issue with it and firing him. And it was apparently because of the fallout of this firing (which made the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch) that St. Rose decided they needed to give Fischer the ax too. Robin says he and his partner were open about their relationship at St. Rose, just as they were at St. Ann — they were photographed together as a couple in the parish directory. This seems like a pretty clear-cut case of a man who was allowed to work for the Church as long as he kept his sexuality relatively quiet, but as soon as someone (not him) made it an issue, he had to be punished. Townsend can claim that this is about the Catholic Church's deeply held beliefs, but really, it seems more about their fear of embarrassment.
Gay man now loses job at St. Louis County church [STLToday]
Catholic school fires gay teacher planning wedding [STLToday]
Archdiocese defends firing of gay St. Louis County teacher [STLToday]
Al Fisher fired from St. Ann Catholic School and St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic Church for marrying partner [KDSK]