Friday December 20, 2013
Yesterday, in my neighborhood of Sammamish Washington, a beloved high school teacher, Mark Zmuda, was fired because he married his gay partner last summer and someone in the Seattle Catholic Church Diocese found out. Losing one's job because of sexual preference might otherwise be illegal and excellent fodder for a law suit if it wasn't a CATHOLIC church and the teacher's contract stipulated that he follow the doctrine of the Catholic Church or be terminated.
The gay man, who was the vice principal at Eastside Catholic School was a patient, loving teacher. Someone who was accepted and loved as part of the ECS family. A man who coached the swim team. Students loved him. Maybe even his faculty members. But someone ratted him out and now he's without a job at Christmas, the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ, a man known for his compassion.
The students apparently never saw the firing of Mr. Z coming but he must've. When he confided in another teacher that he'd married the love of his life, another man, last summer, Mark Zmuda probably saw the writing on the wall. What is most amazing, absolutely shocking about what happened next is the reaction from the students at the school. They did not like this decision one bit. And why did they not agree with the Catholic Church's reaction to the same-sex marriage? Because they are kids who've been groomed by the school's philosophy to be charitable, accepting, unselfish, forgiving, non-judgemental.
ECS prides themselves (if that is allowed when being Catholic) on being charitable and is always running a collection of some sort for poor people, impoverished community members, fellow human beings who are down on their luck. Some of them might have even been gay but then the Catholic Church is famous for the don't look, don't tell policy, just look at the religion's history of pedophile priests. They like to keep their dirty laundry hidden within the Vatican walls. And ECS might have let the marriage of Mark Zmuda stay a secret if one of the other faculty members hadn't reported the marriage to the Seattle Arch Diocese. The school asked if Mr. Zmuda would rather resign or be terminated (FIRED) and he chose to resign, probably still hoping to get some sort of a job after this fiasco, a job with an employer that doesn't give a flying fig if his life long partner is the same sex as him.
An assembly of all students was called on Thursday to reveal that Mr. Zmuda was "resigning", a piece of news that left the kids shocked. They loved Mr. Z. How could this happen? Oh wait! They attend a Catholic School, a tidbit that many students forgot. Many of the student body are Catholic, some are practicing Catholics but many are just plain not religious at all. Most of the neighborhood kids I know who attend ECS don't go to a church of any kind, although religion is taught at the school and the doctrine of Catholicism is recognized.
What happened Thursday afternoon was divine. Mr. Z spoke to the student body and then two female students made the ultimate brave choice to stand up and tell the crowd that they are gay. One girl said "do I have to leave now too?" OMG! That was someone's child there. She must've made the decision to come out in support of Mr. Z when she heard the terrible news for non-heterosexual people in the catholic school system. I am absolutely aghast that someone, not yet an adult, had the bravery to stand up in front of their peers and question the Catholic Church's decision to persecute gays. One day away from the Christmas break, Mr. Z is fired. But what will lie in wait for those two girls who came out at the assembly? Acceptance from the student body is pretty evident but is it acceptable to be a gay student in the Catholic School system as long as you didn't sign a work contract to say you won't be a gay teacher? And what about teachers who are divorced? Live together before marriage, practice birth control? Do they get fired as well?
While Mr. Z was picking up leftover garbage off the commons floor after the assembly that announced his termination, the ECS kids took to twitter and suddenly the tweets were firing all over the Pacific Northwest. A staged walk out/protest was in the works. Kids would leave their classrooms and meet in the commons area to stand up for the right to marry the person you love, gay or not. And after meeting in the lunch area the numbers of actual kids with opinions were too great for the small area and they took the protest outside.
Over at ECS, the students chanted, cried, and eventually made their way to the main road to tell the town that they weren't having this decision. When the priest in residence at the school, another beloved teacher, came out to talk to them, they chanted for the nun who runs the school, to come out until she arrived to tell them it was not a school decision but a church decision. Oh yea, did you kids remember the school is Catholic? And Catholics do not embrace homosexuality and especially not gay marriage, it appears.
Funny thing is that the school's position was made clear by the teachers' support of letting the students walk out of the classrooms without baring their way. When asked if they'd be marked absent, most teachers said no. One in particular emphatically told the kids "yes". Makes me wonder who snitched on Mr.Z. Security was not used to break up the scene, only keep the kids safe as they expressed their right to protest. How cool is that?
The point is that the kids took a stand, showed values that the Catholic Church has not embraced yet in their doctrine of forgiveness, charity, and love. But here's the message that the protest should have sent along with re-hire Mr. Z. The Catholic Church has succeeded in teaching young people to have Christian values of love and acceptance and compassion. It worked. Maybe there is some hypocrisy in the Church doctrine but the kids seem to know what's right and what's wrong. They haven't had 2000 years of following rules and social guidelines that don't make sense anymore. The world is overpopulated, we can accept gay couples.
As Bob Dylan said, "the times, they are a changin'." Maybe the new Catholics of this world, the ones who are still in school, will accept the gay lifestyle, unlike Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame who equates gays with terrorists and is in hot water this week for showing America he is a redneck and a small-minded person. That guy is all over Facebook right now, dropped by his channel, A&E, and the subject of controversy for being a gay-hating bigot. That's another story. One that involves freedom of speech and again, religion.
Eastside Catholic high school can be proud of their students even though there isn't a hope in heck of Mr. Z getting his job back. For that to happen the whole huge Catholic Church would send a message to the world that they now accept gay relationships and that would be one gigantic miracle of enormous proportions.
From Vatican City, to the Seattle Diocese to Eastside Catholic - Free Mr. Z!
Kim Hornsby is an author of Amazon Bestseller Novels The Dream Jumper's Promise and Necessary Detour, as well as short stories in the genre of The Bachelor called The Husband Hunt. She resides in Sammamish Washington and speaks out when she is passionate about a cause.