Discrimination complaint filed against Regis Catholic Schools

Tim Nelson

Tim Nelson

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. — A New Mexico school principal has filed a discrimination complaint with Wisconsin state regulators against Regis Catholic Schools, contending it rescinded an offer to be its president because of unfounded speculation that he is gay.

Regis, which operates three elementary schools, a middle school, and a high school in Eau Claire and Altoona, announced on April 4 that Tim Nelson, 48, would become president.

Tim Nelson

But on May 2, Regis said it had hired Mark Gobler instead. Gobler was principal and athletic director at Luck High School and Middle School.

Regis said the reversal was based on a “lack of candor about his (Nelson’s) affiliations with religious communities during the interview process.”

“That is an outright lie,” Nelson said in an interview with the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. “Throughout the whole interview process they never asked me anything about my religious life.”

Two weeks after he was named Regis’ new president, Nelson said Regis school officials called to question him about an obituary for his father in which another man’s name was listed next to his, seemingly indicating they were a couple. Nelson said he explained he considered the man his best friend and that he was not a romantic partner.

Regarding his relationship with the man, Nelson said, “The two of us live in community, we share expenses and live a devout Catholic lifestyle and meet daily in a chapel in our home for daily prayers.”

In addition, Nelson said that the school system checked out his Facebook account and found something objectionable there, too.

Nelson alleged that Regis officials expressed concern about a homosexual group he had “liked” on his Facebook page. Nelson, who acknowledged having some gay Facebook friends, said he doesn’t know anything about the group and must have inadvertently “liked” it. He immediately deleted it when it was brought to his attention.

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Regis’ attorneys, James Birnbaum and Jessica Kirchner of the law firm O’Flaherty Heim Egan & Birnbaum, issued a statement Thursday that says in part, “Mr. Nelson was not denied employment as President of Regis Catholic Schools because of either his gender or his sexual preference.”

It also says that because the school system is a religious institution, it “is free to choose who its religious leaders are without governmental interference.”

Nelson has filed his discrimination complaint with the Equal Rights Division of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and has retained an attorney.

He is currently working as a supervising principal of a group of American Indian community schools in New Mexico.

Nelson, an Eau Claire native, said he wanted to return to his hometown to be near his ailing mother and to work for the school system he had attended.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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