Mount St. Mary’s Academy, a Catholic high school in Little Rock, Arkansas has reportedly fired a 15-year veteran teacher for marrying her long-term partner on Wednesday. Tippi McCullough, an English teacher and the school’s spirit club advisor, was called just 45 minutes after she told Barb Mariani, “I do,” at their wedding ceremony in Alberquerque, New Mexico.
“It is impossible to believe that the first call we received after the most joyous occasion of our lives was a vocal pink slip,” Barb Mariani told the Human Rights Campaign. “Tippi has been a beloved teacher at Mount St. Mary’s for 15 years and it’s a sad day when she is fired for doing nothing more than committing to the person she loves – me.”
HRC reports that, according to Mariani, “shortly after their wedding ceremony, a secretary at the school called Tippi and said that if she got married she would be fired—telling her that she was calling her for her own protection. Later, a second call came from the school principal, who, upon confirming Tippi had married her partner, purportedly told her, ‘I never thought this day would come, but I have to terminate you,’ and that Tippi could resign to avoid being publicly fired.”
According to Mariani, the school’s principal was aware that McCullough was gay and knew of their relationship, but that didn’t deter her from threatening McCullough with termination under her contract’s morality clause. When Tippi pressed the principal about the irrationality of the termination, the principal purportedly said, “I’m not going to get in a theological conversation with you.” She told McCullough if she resigned, she would write her a “glowing recommendation.” As yet, Tippi has not made a final decision about her next course of action.
Principal Diane Wolfe reportedly offered McCullough a “glowing recommendation” if she resigned.
Arkansas native, HRC President Chad Griffin, is calling on the school to “immediately cease discriminatory employment practices targeting their LGBT teachers.”
“To fire a beloved teacher simply because she is gay is morally reprehensible,” said Griffin on HRC’s website. “At a moment when Pope Francis is urging the Catholic hierarchy to put aside judgment and a decades-long campaign targeting devoted LGBT Catholics, it’s shameful that this school is ignoring that hopeful message in favor of explicit and baseless discrimination.”
Principal Wolfe, according to a report in a the Arkansas Times, responded to a former St. Mary student who asked the principal “to show moral courage rather than cowardice.”
“While I respect your thoughts, concerns and theological expertise, you really have no clue,” Wolfe’s letter reportedly reads. “This was not just my decision. I am only the messenger. Perhaps you would be more informed to direct your opinions to the Catholic church. Do you honestly think a lowly high school principal of 531 girls would take this kind of monumental action on a whim or based on my ‘conservative views?’ You and many others are making grandiose assumptions and if you think this decision conflicts with the spirit of the Vatican II perhaps you need to take this up with the Catholic church which made the decision.
“I am contractually bound by the parameters set forth by the church teachings,” Wolfe continues. “It was brought to my attention that by entering into a same sex civil union, whereby a public document was generated, one would be in direct violation of the morals clause of the employee contract. I would be instructed and bound to do the same action were documentation provided to me that an employee of a Catholic school divorced and remarried without an annulment or if an employee had a side line business of performing abortions. It is not for me to decide, judge or disobey the tenets of the church. I was hired to uphold my contractual obligations as a Catholic school administrator and to carry out those functions, as unpleasant as they may be. It seems many are quick to judge my actions as my decision and accuse me of cowardice in the performance of what I was hired to do. Do you not think it took moral courage to carry out and uphold the tenets of the church and the directives of those responsible for giving oversight to those tenets? I urge you to quit being so naive to think this was solely my decision and solely my action.”
The Times points to an online petition asking the school to “Stop Discrimination Against Coach McCullough.”
Image via Diocese of Little Rock
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