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Lesbian teacher says pregnancy got her fired from Catholic school

Wednesday, September 3, 2014
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Barbara Webb (left) and her wife Kristen Lasecki in Madison Heights, Mich.Mandi Wright, AP

Barbara Webb (left) and her wife Kristen Lasecki in Madison Heights, Mich.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — A former chemistry teacher at a suburban Detroit Catholic high school said she was fired after becoming pregnant in a gay marriage.

Barbara Webb, 33, of Madison Heights said she was fired from the all-girls Marian High School in August after working there for nine years. She notified employers of her pregnancy in July.

Although Webb’s termination letter didn’t give a reason for her firing, she said, her contract prohibits her from making lifestyle decisions or actions that are contrary to Catholic doctrine.

“That you can’t hide a pregnancy from the public is why I was terminated,” she said.

The school’s president, Sister Lenore Pochelski, confirmed to the Detroit Free Press on Tuesday that Webb’s employment ended Aug. 19. She declined to comment for confidentiality reasons.

Webb said she declined an offer to resign with health insurance through the spring semester but without pay or other benefits.

“I really felt like resigning was a lie; to me, that was willingly leaving,” Webb said. “I was kind of compelled to just let people know the truth.”

Webb isn’t sure whether or not she will press charges against the school. An employment lawyer in Bloomfield Hills, Deborah Gordon, said freedom of religion under the First Amendment could apply if the case went to court.

“Pregnancy discrimination is flat-out illegal,” Gordon said. “There are exemptions for religious institutions. I don’t know if she’s going to fit into one of them here.”

A number of people from the Marian community have spoken out against the school’s decision to fire Webb.

“I think the bigger thing everyone is feeling is we have been taught this whole time to live a Christian life and be accepting of people and yet we go and fire one of our favorite teachers?” said Megan Gorman, a former student of Webb’s. “It makes us reconsider and question the time we spent at Marian.”

Webb said she valued her time at the high school, but felt she had to come forward with what she sees as a human-rights issue.

“This is definitely not a crusade against the school,” Webb said of her decision to go public. “This is so much more than me and Marian. It’s letting people know what type of social injustice is still happening.”

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