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Pennsylvania

Catholic school suffers sharp backlash over firing of gay teacher

Friday, December 13, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — Administrators at a Roman Catholic high school suffered a sharp and swift backlash this week after firing a well-liked teacher who sought to marry his same-sex partner.

Educators said they had no choice, but thousands have protested the move through Facebook groups and petitions demanding that Michael Griffin be rehired at Holy Ghost Preparatory School. Some alumni have pledged to withhold financial support.

Michael Griffin (right) and Vincent Giannetto.

Michael Griffin (right) and Vincent Giannetto.

Caught in the middle are people who say Griffin should have known he was jeopardizing his job by publicizing his plan to wed, as well as those who worry the negative publicity is unfairly labeling the Bensalem school as intolerant.

“It is a shame that the students and faculty are being painted a certain way, because it is apparent with the amount of support Mr. Griffin has received, this is not the popular mentality,” said 2012 alum Rob Blackwell.

The case started last week when Griffin informed the principal, via e mail, that he would be late to a staff meeting because he was getting a marriage license. Griffin and his partner, Vincent Giannetto, live in Mount Laurel, N.J., a state where same-sex marriage is legal.

Same-sex unions are not sanctioned under church teachings, which Griffin was required to uphold as a condition of his employment. School officials say they respected Griffin’s private life until his email forced the issue.

“All of us, including Mr. Griffin, understood that his decision would place him in violation of his contract,” according to a statement from the school.

Griffin, a 35-year-old Holy Ghost alum, counters that he didn’t hide his relationship with Giannetto, whom he joined in a civil union in 2008. Griffin did not respond to requests for comment left by The Associated Press, but he told The Philadelphia Inquirer that his partner even attended school functions.

“Clearly, we were a couple. We both wear rings, and we were together,” Griffin said. “The a lums and donors, they could all see that.”

After his termination Dec. 6, the criticism came fast and furious. One protest letter lambasted the school for “this apparent assault on diversity, this closemindedness and this devotion to doctrine when change is happening all around you.”

“Griffin deserves to be congratulated on his upcoming nuptials, not banished for making the news public,” said the letter, signed by nearly 100 alums, parents and former staff members.

Blackwell, who signed the letter, described Griffin as “really a positive influence on the Holy Ghost community” and said the firing goes against the school’s philosophy about caring for all people. He also worried about the effect on current students.

“Students who are gay would probably not feel like it’s the same accepting community it once was,” Blackwell said.

School officials portray the firing as a purely contractual issue that, if not addressed, could lead to a slippery slope. They’ve held several meetings with students and staff over the past week to explain the decision and mend fences.

Rita Schwartz, president of a local Catholic teachers union, described the environment at church schools as “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Though she does not represent staff at Holy Ghost, Schwartz said all Catholic schools require faculty to adhere to church morals – and that goes for heterosexuals, too.

Schwartz said she’s seen straight Catholic teachers lose their jobs for remarrying without getting their previous marriage annulled.

“When you sign on to work in a Catholic school … there are certain things that you can’t do,” she said.

That raises the question of why Griffin told the principal at all. Griffin, who taught Spanish and French there for 12 years, noted his partner’s presence at a fundraiser might easily have qualified as grounds for dismissal.

“To me, that was much more public than me emailing the principal,” Griffin told the Inquirer. “That’s why it’s sort of a shock to me.”

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104 more reader comments:

  1. I’d say that’s backlash well deserved.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 5:55pm
  2. Isn't it illegal to fire someone for being gay?

    Replied on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 1:46am
  3. I suppose. At least where I live it is.

    Replied on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 1:54am
  4. Cannot get worked up over this. You work for a homophobic institution, don’t be surprised when they’re homophobic to you.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 5:57pm
  5. ALTHOUGH I’M PRO-LGBT, THIS TEACHER DID KNOW AHEAD OF TIME WHAT WOULD HAPPEN, AND DID IT ANYWAY. IN THIS INSTANCE, I THINK HE BURNED HIS OWN BRIDGE.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 5:58pm
  6. really? I just think Catholic organization are two-faced. They condone rape of little boys and quick to act upon those who do no harm. suckie! suck!

    Replied on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:06pm
  7. I taught for 12 years in a Catholic High school where one of the teachers was "dating" a married man - openly. Nothing was said or done! I'm sure if I had been allowed to legally marry in that state I would have and nothing would have been done under that principal. Sadly, it is a lone example!

    Replied on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:16pm
  8. People need to stand up against the Church, with more BACKLASH.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 5:58pm
  9. Allan Bailey, "I" am the Church. I'm Catholic. I carry that tradition on my back voluntarily, and I refuse to pick up stones-- in the name of Jesus- to persecute gays. Whatever religion these others are practicing, I do not recognize it as Christian. It is what the living Jesus rebuked.

    Replied on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 10:30pm
  10. Kelly,,so true gays treatment may be the test for true acceptance of Jesus teaching..they have failed......

    Replied on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 4:04am
  11. Not all Catholics are the hateful people this page makes us out to be. After all, Jesus never said anything against homosexuality.

    Replied on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 4:45am
  12. good

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 5:59pm
  13. Just remember one thing, you have no rights unless you follow the liberal agenda.. only then can you have an opinion that is not discriminated against. They cry equality, but in reality they just want everyone else to think like them… HOW IS THAT EQUAL?

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:00pm
  14. You're wrong. Conservatives can be as good or better than liberals, if they don't go along with any discriminatory crap.

    Replied on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:35pm
  15. I must be wrong cause I want true equality... If you don't like gays, then you should be able to express it... If you are in favors of gays, then you should be able to express it... The conservative agenda is very apparent... they want everyone to think like them. Liberals try to skirt around the issue by constantly crying equality, when in reality they just want everyone to think like them as well. Thats why liberals are ridiculed for their lack of logic and idiotic ideas... cause they try to hide their intent, when in reality, it is very visible as a "one sided, passive/aggressive non understanding to anyone else's beliefs" agenda. If true equality was actually practiced, there would be no posts about how evil and hate filled the conservatives are for not liking gays. But since liberals live in a world of hypocrisy, they do the exact thing they cry about and think they are some sort of political martyr is the process.

    Replied on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:43pm
  16. Good for them for standing up.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:01pm
  17. There needs to be more people standing up against this kind of crap.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:02pm
  18. Catholics have too much nerve. Priest go out and rape little boys and people still are expected to forgive them. People are still Catholic…well some people are gay and it’s ok they aren’t violating anyone just trying to be happy. At least they haven’t hurt or ruined anyone’s life by forcing themselves on anyone especially a helpless child.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:04pm
  19. They deserve it, discrimination is illegal anyway. Plus, it sends a message of intolerance, which religion preachers hardcore at everyone else.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:07pm
  20. Terrible but I have to say as a former Catholic you are going by their rules when you work there.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:07pm
  21. The point is he was a well respected teacher and you morally don’t Fucking do that to people who are good people. Gay or not all that should matter is if he is a good person but the church obviously doesn’t give a fuck. God is not in church anymore satan runs the world and the church. Catholic priests knowingly rape children and are defended by the church and the vatican, what kind of evil disgusting shit is that!!!

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:08pm
  22. Again, they make their own rules and expectations. That’s why it’s called a private school. I’m not seeing why masses are upset over this case. Lots of teachers are let go for less and they don’t get a mention.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:10pm
  23. Griffin is right. The school knew of his relationship and previous civil union, and witnessed them as a couple at school functions, and did nothing. The school therefore set a precedent of acceptance. The email sent privately shouldn’t be used against him.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:11pm
  24. I’ve noticed this happening a lot lately where private institutions (usually religious) firing a staff member for being gay. And of course as a religious institution, they are exempt from the laws that would consider this illegal. Nice how an institution built on tolerance and acceptance is so not.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:11pm
  25. as they shopuld !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:13pm
  26. All of this “he knew the rules” talk is bullshit. We—justly—wouldn’t be having this conversation if the subject were interracial marriage; all decent people would be outraged if a teacher were fired for marrying someone of a different race. The bottom line is that this man wanted to be an educator & he should have the right to announce his wedding as publically as any straight person is allowed to & often does. Hatred of birth control, homophobia, child rape—is there anything the Catholic church can’t get away with?

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:22pm
  27. Well, if you chose to work for KKK School of Cosmetology... I think I might be making the same point.

    Replied on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:42pm
  28. If the church, any church, has decided that they would like to purge their teaching staff of those who commit sins, that’s fine. In fact, I encourage them to purge ALL sinners from their ranks. As each and every one of us is not without sin, the outcome would be tremendously positive for the country.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:23pm
  29. thats bullshit i hate all churches

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:27pm
  30. The Church needs to move into the present century.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:29pm
  31. What the fuck is wrong with these people?

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:35pm
  32. do these catholics think they can judge, because they are without sin????? God is watching

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:35pm
  33. Sry but he can’t do anything about this, Catholic institutions make this clear when they hire you that the will fire you of you even are openly gay not even married, so he dosent have a case, its the catholic ideal I’m not saying its right but if he wants to be out and open at work he can’t work anywhere Catholic run

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:36pm
  34. The reason I see this as unfair:
    It says in the article “…said she’s seen straight Catholic teachers lose their jobs for remarrying without getting their previous marriage annulled.”
    According to the Christian Bible, divorce is also a sin.
    Based on these grounds, why is it that opposite-sex relationship staff are allowed to divorce and re-marry so long as their previous nuptials have been voided, even though it violates their biblical code, but same-sex relationship staff are not allowed to marry at all?

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:38pm
  35. If the rules are wrong, you break the rules.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:38pm
  36. Blindly Following Religious Rules & Laws… Is there room for Compassion, Tolerance, and Acceptance of those who are different?

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:40pm
  37. It is a pity this school does not take a leaf out of the Popes book, and except them

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:43pm
  38. Accept. Sorry, it's just the words have opposite meanings here.

    Replied on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:33pm
  39. I gave them a bit. Glad to hear they noticed.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 6:47pm
  40. Let me set the record correctly for the school. Here is everything Jesus ever said about gays and marriage equality.

    ” “

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:00pm
  41. I think those administrators should be eating Crow this friday instead of Fish.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:02pm
  42. “. . . those worry the negative publicity is unfairly labeling the Bensalem school as intolerant.” HELLO, THEY FIRED HIM. Intolerance is as intolerance does.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:02pm
  43. This is the United States and every citizen has a right to have liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:04pm
  44. Ha ha oh well Catholic school, next time practice what u preach . Show humility and love to all like God commands..

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:18pm
  45. Schools like that have no contractual punishments for adultery or divorce, etc. They just pick what they think are “real sins”.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:26pm
  46. My favorite part? When the article says the school is concerned the firing “unfairly” portrays them as intolerant. Um, hello, you fired the guy–you ARE intolerant.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:28pm
  47. they have absolutely NO RIGHT to do that. what he does in his personal life is none of their damn business and has absolutely NOTHING to do with his work ethic. retards. you cannot tell people who they can or can’t love. sounds like these idiots think they’re god and can tell people what or what not to do with their lives.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:39pm
  48. They can at private religious institutions. That's how it works.

    Replied on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 7:56am
  49. Shame on the school.Hope they both have a happy life together.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:41pm
  50. Good. Intolerant “Christian” bastards.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:41pm
  51. Kick up a major fuss…make it so homophobes are the ones who have to hide for a change. Sick to death of anti-gay crap especially from the damned church.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:50pm
  52. Sadly, this isn’t an isolated incident. I went to catholic school in Philadelphia my whole life. I’ve seen things like this happen before.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 7:53pm
  53. This is why I despise organized religion.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 8:50pm
  54. What is the Catholic church doing about their pedophile priests and clergy who rape and sodomize and molest little children? What hypocritical bullshit.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 8:56pm
  55. Not to be rude. I myself support the LGBT. But seriously guys. If you sign a contract saying I’ll abide by these rules and then break them you deserve to be fired. I don’t care if your gay, straight, black, white, etc. He signed a contract. As for this divorce is a sin stuff I’m hearing. Actually if you read in the time of Moses, God ended up allowing divorce as long as there was reason for it, like adultery. I don’t like what happened either.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 8:58pm
  56. too bad Mr. Administrator….

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 9:05pm
  57. If you’re gay and you know the Catholic Church doesn’t allow gay people then why work for them and be surprised they fire you?

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 9:37pm
  58. the POPE the head of your order recognizes homosexuality and accepts it, this alone transcends your school rules. Unless you don’t care what your leader has to say, ??? Bigots

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 9:45pm
  59. Good. People aren’t blindly accepting the church’s garbage anymore.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 9:51pm
  60. Yes love the backlash not stop the bs and rehire this man

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 9:58pm
  61. good good

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 10:01pm
  62. what did they expect

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 10:32pm
  63. The catholic church has balls!!! What about all their priests who rape and molest alter boys and boys in general, they sweep it under their holy rug and pretend it never happened by ignoring it and calling the victims liars. What a crock of shit the catholic church is! Fuck the church and fuck all the priests like father newman, charles, from the arch diocese of philadelphia for raping and killing my cousin! That son of a bitch got 3yrs in prison…3 thats it. Mother fuckers! I hate the church n dont need it to talk to god. God is everywhere and for that i dont need to step a foot thru those filthy doors! Burn in hell charles newman of philadelphia! Murderer!

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 10:47pm
  64. YES!!! Very good. Kudos to the alumni who are withholding support!

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 11:06pm
  65. Nothing really new. The CC is homophobic. But even if you are straight, you can run into trouble: try getting a job with a catholic office and tell them (you are married) that you decided to have no children. NO job!

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 11:11pm
  66. Mike worked there, openly gay, for 12 years. He brought his partner, Vinnie, to school events. It wasn’t a secret and in fact, they were in a civil union. So what changed? Not his teaching skills, not a surprise announcement of a legal commitment, not being a person with whom you are in a clearly defined as being your one and only partner. It was only when marriage was brought up that there was an issue with his employment.

    Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 at 11:47pm
  67. Good.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 12:29am
  68. Supreme Court to challenge NJ discriminatory same-sex marriage ban. ——————– NJ Civil Court to sue discriminatory practices of Catholic school. ——————– Get with Lambda Legal! Do it for us, yourself & our progeny youth. The Catholic Church is despised by a TREMENDOUS number of people today for their archaic, hateful beliefs, policies and practices. They are COMPLETELY ignorant and oblivious to the intent of the Bible’s teachings and disregard its philosophy whenever it suits them–one sad lot.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 12:33am
  69. Those who hate, Jesus will get them in the end.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 12:54am
  70. That is pathetic, the school should be ashamed!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 1:12am
  71. DID THEY GET POPE FRANCES APPROVAL TO FIRE THE GAY TEACHER, OR ARE THEY LOOKING FOR A NEW JOB????

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 1:59am
  72. This crap, from a “religion” mired in pedophiles disguised as priests???? “The teachers have to adhere to certain morality”????? What a load of CRAP!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 2:08am
  73. WRONG WRONG WRONG………………….

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 2:12am
  74. What did they expect?

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 2:29am
  75. Shame on the Catholic School !!!!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 2:43am
  76. Publicity will hopefully shame the “Church” into change! I feel for the students in the school who are questioning or gay who will continue to be fearful and hide and be damaged for who knows how long?

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 3:34am
  77. they need to close that school,,none of my dollars for their support////

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 4:02am
  78. Backlash is deserved

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 4:17am
  79. catholicism sucks

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 5:48am
  80. A hateful bigoted church is NOT a church !

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 6:09am
  81. so they fucking should !!!!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 6:40am
  82. yes its ‘discrimination !!!!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 6:41am
  83. The church sucks

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 6:41am
  84. Homophobia’s a bitch!!! I hope these 2 men enjoy a long married life together!!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 7:02am
  85. snipping the purse strings and snapping some heads of the hierarchy around to the reality that the Vatican has already recognized for a hundred and twenty years and is taking new stands on towards marriage equality every day thanks to Pope Frankie is a good start to revolutionizing the Church for the rest of this century.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 7:45am
  86. THE SCHOOL HAD EVERY RIGHT TO FIRE HIM. Jesus, people, do you not know how private catholic schools work? Quit posting this bullshit all the time. Yes, it’s wrong, but religious private schools don’t operate the same as public schools. They are technically allowed to fire him for being gay and wanting to get married. For fuck sake, learn about school systems before saying stupid shit all over the internet, it makes you look just as ignorant.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 7:55am
  87. NO THEY DIDN'T. We don't care what their rules are. You don't fire someone because he's married to another person. PERIOD. Besides, it said in the article itself that the school KNEW about his partner. They went to events together and they knew about his civil union. They were accepting way before this. No excuse at all for this. It's time for Catholic Schools to either be disbanded, or taxed. Time for them to catch up to the rest of us in the 21st century.

    Replied on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 6:57pm
  88. Just yet another way of discriminating. Screw religious schools.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 8:52am
  89. The school was wrong to sack him and they owe this couple a big apology. I am Catholic & go to church weekly and support strongly equality. I believe that we are placed here to love not hate or hurt.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 9:54am
  90. It is a nonsense for any country to allow an organization to discriminate because it goes against their principles. It makes any antidiscrimination laws impotent.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 10:16am
  91. as they should!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 11:03am
  92. Yeah, Catholics and religious schools suck. All of them. They’re all the same. All of them intolerant, bigoted, homophobic. And they smell. Bad. Burn kittens alive. All Catholics . . . Hell, all religious people (except Muslims because they don’t take any shit from anyone and will cut your head off for looking at them sideways . . . Muslims are in my cool book) should be rounded up and resettled somewhere away from the tolerant, loving, compassionate, fair LGBTQ crowd and their supporters.

    Wait . . . that didn’t come out right.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 1:31pm
  93. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I hope that church, it’s leader and it’s supporters are deluged with a never ending blight of misery. They earned it.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 1:42pm
  94. If religious institutions want to discriminate then I demand that we take away their tax exempt status-Why should we be giving tax breaks to hateful institutions?

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 2:18pm
  95. Exactly ! Tax the shot out of religious school, churches and organizations! Religion = Hate!!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 2:59pm
  96. Unfairly labeling the school as intolerant? Uhh..what exactly is it if not that?

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 3:21pm
  97. I think it is abhorrent but it is church doctrine and unless people are prepared to fight that doctrine (nearly impossible) this is what they will have. Gay Catholic kids should already be on notice.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 3:36pm
  98. We have every right to love who we love!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 3:57pm
  99. That’s why I switched church

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 5:38pm
  100. He should have his job unless was he working under a contract? And if so what does it say?

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 6:01pm
  101. Sorry, Corey, but that’s not how catholic schools work. I agree with you, but it won’t change. They are private institutions with different rules and regulations. They are allowed to fire people on that principle, regardless if they knew or not. I am studying education, I know how the system works. I’m glad you don’t care what their rules are, but that’s the point everyone is missing. They have rules that ALLOW them to do this sort of thing. And then everyone acts surprised when it happens! Have you never heard of the catholic church before? They are assholes and their schools are bigoted. But guess what? That’s their religious freedom. They are allowed to practice that in their PRIVATE INSTITUION. That teacher should have never worked there to begin with if he didn’t want to be fired. Plain and simple.

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 7:02pm
  102. As a former Catholic, I’m glad I’m no longer affiliated with this religion! Being beaten by nuns, who had no business teaching children in the first place, is one reason I hated going to school! It tainted my outlook on how fun and creative, as well as valuable, education could really be.
    Unless you attended Catholic school, you may not understand how traumatizing a religious system like this can be! I did have a much better attitude towards school once I was transferred to public school, thank God!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 10:21pm
  103. I ‘am now a practicing Pagen. It just feels more natural to be connected to Mother Earth! The Native Americans have this insight correct! Respect ALL life forms for Seven Generations forward!

    Posted on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 10:26pm
  104. Yes the private school had the right to fire him. However, that does not give them a free pass in the eyes of the public. We are more than allowed to call them on their bigotry and that’s why we post these things. Some people seem to think that being religious excuses bigotry, it doesn’t.

    Posted on Sunday, December 15, 2013 at 2:26am