A teacher at a Roman Catholic school in Moorhead, Minn., has been fired after expressing opposition to the church’s stand on same-sex marriage.
Trish Cameron taught for 11 years at St. Joseph’s Catholic School. Earlier this year, she was asked to fill out a self-evaluation form, part of which sought to gauge how teachers handled church dogma in class.
In a section of the form designated for comments, Cameron wrote, “I do not agree with all church teachings on a personal level, but I do not bring my own opinions into religion classes.”
Cameron was asked to meet with the principal and superintendent, who quizzed her on her views. She admitted to supporting marriage equality for gay couples. A week later, she was instructed to resign.
Cameron told Minnesota Public Radio that she never expected she would be fired.
“I don’t think there was any hiding my feelings,” she said, “but along the way at the moments of dialogue, was I thinking, ‘Gee, I’m jeopardizing my employment’? No. That never crossed my mind.”
Cameron said the issue really hit home for her about a year ago when Bishop Michael Hoeppner of the Diocese of Crookston visited her class and gave a lecture about the church’s opposition to same-sex marriage.
Hoeppner, she said, noted that the state will vote on marriage equality in November, and he told the students to make sure their parents voted against it. Cameron said she believed such political discussions were not appropriate for fifth graders.
Minnesota is one of four states that will vote on marriage equality this fall. The others are Maryland, Maine and Washington. In each state, the Catholic hierarchy is working alongside Religious Right groups to try to deny access to civil marriage by gay couples.
The church has been especially active in Minnesota, where Catholics are the largest religious denomination in the state. Parishes are being asked to mobilize, and church units are donating to the battle. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis kicked in $650,000.
“It takes money to speak in a democracy, and it takes a lot of it these days,” Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference told Minnesota Public Radio.
Church officials have been stymied somewhat in Washington, where state law prohibits “bundling” of political contributions. The regulations mean that churches cannot collect money from individual church-goers and send it to the anti-marriage- equality effort. Instead, churches can pass out envelopes for donations but must rely on donors to send them in on their own.
Individual Catholics are refusing to follow the hierarchy’s lead on this issue. A Public Religion Research Institute poll earlier this year found that 59 percent of Catholics support civil marriage for gay couples.