Last week students at a Seattle-area Catholic high school staged a sit-in to protest the removal of their school’s vice principal, who the school says violated his employment contract by marrying another man over the summer.
Alumni, students and parents from a Seattle Catholic school are fighting to have a revered vice principal reinstated, after school officials discovered his marriage to another man.
Supporters of Mark Zmuda vowed to pull funds from Eastside Catholic High School, after the school sent out a letter announcing he had resigned and calling his marriage a violation of his contract, which requires a strict adherence to a Catholic code.
“Shame on you!” wrote a passionate alumnus on the Eastside Catholic High School Alumni Facebook page in response to the school’s letter.
“Not only is this type of homophobic behavior completely antiquated, it sets a horrible example for all students present and past of tolerance and acceptance,” Jessica Lesser from the class of 1994 wrote. “Our own pope has a very different message for our Church: ‘If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?’ – Pope Francis.”
Florence Colburn, whose son — who she called “politically astute” — instigated the school-wide rally protesting Zmuda’s dismissal, has retracted contributions to the school and says her daughter, a sophomore, is questioning whether she wants to enroll there next year.
“We have been at the school for seven years, and by far [Mark] is the best administrator that I’ve ever seen there,” Colburn told ABC News. “As a mentor, and a coach, and a colleague, and a human being, there’s not a better person. I think that’s why uproar was so fast and furious. There’s nothing anyone can reproach this man.”
Colburn says many of the families have chosen to enroll their kids in the 600-student Catholic high school for the academics, not necessarily for the religious education.
“My question now is what if there’s a teacher in our school or any Catholic school that’s been divorced, should we fire them?” Colburn said. “Should we fire teachers that take the pill? We can go down the list of the rules of Catholic teaching.”
According to the Seattle Times, Zmuda, who coached the high school’s swim team in addition to serving as vice principal, worked at Eastside Catholic for about a year and a half before his departure. While it is unclear if Zmuda’s contract was terminated, as the letter to parents last week stated, or if he resigned his position, as the school’s attorney, Mike Patterson, later claimed, it is clear that the Archdiocese of Seattle was involved in the deliberative process over his employment at Eastside Catholic:
Eastside Catholic president Sister Mary Tracy said she discussed Zmuda’s case in person with Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain within the last two weeks and they had what she described as a collaborative conversation.
Sartain didn’t give her an explicit order to fire Zmuda, Tracy said. Rather, “We were directed to comply with the teachings of the church.”
“The Archdiocese works through me as the head of the school,” Tracy said. “It was clear that this is the teaching of the church. I know what we need to do.”
Patterson said he and Tracy met with Zmuda in a cordial meeting on Tuesday and everyone understood that Zmuda could no longer work at Eastside Catholic.
“It was just one of those situations where he knew … that he needed to comport with the [teachings] of the church, and his same-sex marriage was not comporting with that,” Patterson said.
Patterson said Zmuda’s same-sex marriage, not the fact that he is gay, is the reason he cannot work for the school.
“He’s a great administrator,” Patterson said.
“We fully support him. We’re going to give him glowing reference letters, all that sort of thing. But Eastside Catholic doesn’t have the power to change that law,” Patterson said, referring to church teachings.