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Resignation of 2 Seattle area Catholic-school teachers stirs protests over church stance on same-sex relationships

Dahlia Bazzaz, The Seattle Times on

Published in News & Features

SEATTLE -- For a few hours Tuesday, rainbow-clad crowds of Catholic-school students, alumni and parents covered the entrances of the Seattle Archdiocese offices in Capitol Hill and John F. Kennedy Catholic High School in Burien.

They protested the abrupt departure of two teachers at Kennedy Catholic, who they say were forced to quit last week because of their same-sex relationships. A letter sent to parents from the school's administration said the "highly capable" teachers "voluntarily resigned," but did not mention why. So far, no one with firsthand knowledge of the situation has confirmed either account.

The exact details of the teachers' quick exit from the school are still hazy. The teachers did not respond to requests for interviews. On Tuesday, their attorney, Shannon McMinimee, said neither she nor the teachers were in a position to comment. When asked why, she declined to comment further.

Teachers who work at schools affiliated with the Archdiocese are required to sign a contract that the school can revoke "if the teacher's life-style is incompatible with Catholic moral values or if his/her conduct is at variance with Catholic teaching."

People gathered at both protests said in interviews that they demand both the reinstatement of the teachers and a change in the church's stance on same-sex relationships. Many, including Catholic-school graduate Grace Armstrong, pointed to what she called a contradiction between Jesus's message of acceptance and love and the church's policies.

"When you send your kid to a Catholic school, you pay money and hope you get the message of Jesus in the school," said Armstrong, who carried a sign reading, "Jesus would protect gay teachers and fire pedophile priests."

 

Rumors about the teachers leaving started to spread last Thursday, and parents, students and alumni began mobilizing to protest. As of Tuesday afternoon, a GoFundMe campaign had raised more than $33,000 to help the teachers cover their expenses until they can find other jobs; a Facebook group dedicated to amassing support for the teachers had more than 5,000 members by noon Tuesday.

In the morning, protesters circled the block where Seattle's Archdiocese office stands, pausing to chant ("Reinstate, not hate!" and "Separate, church and hate!") and recite the Lord's Prayer while holding hands.

Shortly after 10 a.m., Kennedy Catholic students made signs and staged a sit-in that clogged some of the school's hallways. At 1 p.m., they walked out, meeting a crowd of several hundred people waiting at the bottom of the school's front steps. They spilled out onto the lawn and spoke into a microphone in front of a banner that read, "Who would Jesus fire? #LoveisLove." Kids and adults peered out through the school's open windows.

Spokespeople for the Archdiocese and Kennedy Catholic didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. The Times asked if it could join a Tuesday morning meeting that a few protesters planned to attend at the Archdiocese's office, but an Archdiocese employee declined.

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