St. Gabriel Catholic Church, one of South Carolina's largest Catholic congregations with 10,000 members, has fired popular music director Steav Bates-Congdon for marrying his partner in New York.
Congdon says he informed his pastor of his plans to wed his partner Bill months before the wedding. But Congdon returned from the ceremony (which was attended by dozens of St. Gabriel members) in New York and a Mexican honeymoon to a homophobic pink-slip.
According to the Charlotte Observer:
On Jan. 19, just back from a honeymoon trip to Mexico, followed by an emergency stay at Carolinas Medical Center for a ruptured appendix, he checked out of the hospital and dropped by St. Gabriel. There, he was handed a note by the Rev. Frank O'Rourke, the pastor with whom he had closely worked for more than four years.
It read: "Employees of St. Gabriel ... are expected to live within the moral tradition of the Church...Your civil marriage stands in direct opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church, therefore ending your employment with us, effective today."
Parishoners supportive of Congdon find the discriminatory termination odd as the music director was upfront about his sexuality and relationship during his eight year tenure at the church.
David Hains, a spokesman for St. Gabriel's diocese, explained the firing to the Observer. "Mr. Congdon's 'civil union,' is a public statement in direct opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church on marriage as a lifelong, exclusive covenant between one man and one woman."
Like throwing salt in the wound, Hains went above his call of duty to demote and demean Congdon's marriage to a "civil union."
St. Gabriel's move has already cost the church some of its members. "I need a community that's compassionate beyond its rules," Bill Collins, a now-former choir member, said. "I need a leadership with compassion, not a leadership that simply talks about it, then acts otherwise."
Thanks to a Supreme Court ruling before Bates-Congdon's termination, religious institutions are allowed to discriminate in employment based on Bible-based prejudices.