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December 08, 2013 11:04 AM You Can Get Fired For That

By Martin Longman

This kind of stuff makes me weary:

Michael Griffin taught French and Spanish at Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania for twelve years. During that entire time, he’s been in a relationship with his same-sex partner. Indeed, according to Griffin, his partner’s “been to numerous school functions with me, he’s even been to [the headmaster’s] house.” On Friday, Griffin applied for a marriage license with his partner — saying he was “excited to finally be able to marry” him after the state’s courts made marriage equality a reality in nearby New Jersey. Shortly thereafter, Griffin was called into his boss’ office.
“At a meeting in my office yesterday, teacher Michael Griffin made clear that he obtained a license to marry his same sex partner,” the school’s headmaster Fr. James McCloskey wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, this decision contradicts the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment. In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony. Regretfully, we informed Mr. Griffin that we have no choice but to terminate his contract effective immediately.”

Mr. Griffin lives in New Jersey where gay marriage is legal and there are some workplace non-discrimination protections, but he works in Pennsylvania where gays do not have the same rights and protections. The real complicating factor here, however, is that Mr. Griffin worked for a religious institution.

We can argue about whether or not Jesus of Nazareth taught against gay marriage, but that is basically irrelevant because the principle involved is that a religious institution can fire someone for violating what they believe Jesus (or any other prophet) taught. If they think Jesus taught that you shouldn’t eat chocolate on Thursdays, they could fire you for eating a Peppermint Patty on Thursday.

Mr. Griffin taught foreign languages, not theology. I don’t know how to precisely balance the rights of religious institutions and the rights of Mr. Griffin, but there can be no doubt that a great wrong has been done in this case.

Martin Longman is the Web Editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune. He has worked as a community organizer for ACORN/Project Vote and as a political consultant for Democracy for America.

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