Charlotte Catholic diocese fires gay teacher for saying he’ll marry his partner

Charlotte Catholic High School

Charlotte Catholic High School

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The local Roman Catholic diocese is in hot water again for anti-LGBT discrimination, this time firing a gay teacher after he announced he would marry his same-sex partner later this year.

Charlotte Catholic High School

Charlotte Catholic High School

Lonnie Billard, a retired drama and English teacher at Charlotte Catholic High School, was told just before the new year that he would no longer be employed as a longterm substitute teacher. Billard, 68, had worked for over a decade as a full-time teacher at Charlotte Catholic, retiring in 2012 and substituting ever since.

Officials with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte say the decision to terminate Billard’s employment was made by officials at Charlotte Catholic High School after he said he intended to marry his partner this May. Billard’s announcement was made on Facebook earlier in the fall. Billard disagrees with the diocese and says the decision wasn’t made by school administrators.

“This was not a decision by Charlotte Catholic High School,” Billard said in an interview with qnotes on Monday. “I had talked with one of the administration officials. He knew [about the announcement]. He didn’t care. He said he knew me to be a good teacher and a good person.”

But, Billard said trouble arose elsewhere.

“Apparently there were a couple teachers there who are super-conservative Catholic,” said Billard, himself a member of the church. “They are not friends of mine on Facebook, but they found out about it and escalated it so it got to the diocese.”

The diocesan newspaper, the Catholic News Herald, said the decision had been made at the school. Billard said the newspaper never spoke to him.

Diocese officials are standing by their decision to fire Billard, and it’s not the first time the diocese has fired a gay employee. In 2012, the diocese fired popular music director Steav Congdon after he married his partner. Church officials call it “a public act that is in disobedience to Church teaching.”

“People who work for the Diocese of Charlotte agree that they will not oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church. We cannot and will not employ a substitute teacher who opposes Church teaching,” diocese spokesman David Hains said in a Jan. 9 statement, according to the diocesan newspaper.

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The two firings also follow other anti-LGBT controversy at the diocese’s largest high school. Last spring, the school invited a conservative nun to speak to a student assembly on sexuality. Students reported that the nun said an absent father and masturbation make boys gay, and that gay men have 500-1,000 sexual partners in their lifetime.

The resulting controversy included a meeting with over 1,000 parents of Charlotte Catholic students, many of whom were upset over the nun’s comments. Their opposition to the nun, the school priest and “church teaching,” resulted in an admonishment from diocese Bishop Peter Jugis. “There simply is no room in the Catholic Church for such displays of uncharitableness and disrespect,” Jugis said at the time.

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