Carla Hale is -- excuse me, WAS -- a teacher at Bishop Watterson High School in Columbus, Ohio, where she worked for 19 years.
After Hale's mother died in late February, she and her brother performed the list of chores that family members are required to undertake at such times. For example, together they drafted an obituary notice to appear in the local newspaper, The Columbus Dispatch, which included the traditional list of surviving loved ones. After the funeral, Hale went back to work.
But as she tells the Dispatch in the video interview below, a couple of weeks later someone sent an anonymous letter of complaint to administrators at the Catholic school, and they included a copy of the obituary. The obit mentioned Hale's long-time partner, Julie. A week later, Hale was called to the office and fired, although Bishop Watterson students and alumni have begun a petition drive to try to force her reinstatement.
The case raises a lot of questions and conflicts. Should employers have the right to fire gay people solely on the grounds of their sexual orientation? A growing majority of Americans would say no. In fact, the city of Columbus has an ordinance outlawing job discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Should such a rule apply to institutions that are affiliated with religious groups? The Columbus ordinance includes no religious exemption.
Does it matter that Hale had never mentioned or raised her sexual orientation with her students or fellow faculty members, and that the only way this became an issue was through a close reading of the small type in her mother's obituary? Does it matter that the school employs people who have become divorced, another practice opposed by the Catholic Church? Does it matter that Hale performed duties unrelated to the practice of religion, and that the school regularly employs non-Catholics, including Hale, who describes herself as a practicing Methodist?
I know that if I worked at Bishop Watterson and was required to fire Carla Hale, I would do so to save the next person from having to do the ugly task. Then I would have resigned, because it's a hard faith that requires you to treat people that way.
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