Wedding Announcement Led To Christian School Firing Gay Teacher

Religious School Loses Case As Judge Sides With Gay Teacher

Excellent teachers are hard to find, but unfortunately too many are being weeded out of the educational system because of their sexuality.  When I was teaching, I was being watched like a hawk by the administration, while the whole school district knew the married principal was sleeping with his married secretary. But hey, the powers that be get to judge whom they want and not judge themselves. 

And that is one of the biggest problems, although many of you have said in comments on previous stories, why are gay teachers working at religious institutions. Aren’t they just asking for dismissal?

And that is what happened to Lonnie Billard. 

Billard, began teaching at Charlotte Catholic High School as a full-time faculty member in 2001, and that same year, he started seeing a man who would eventually become his husband.  His sexuality was never a secret and staff, other faculty, students and parents knew he was gay. He earned the Teacher of the Year Award in 2012, an award he was nominated for every single year, a feat he only held.

That same year, Billard retired from the faculty but remained on the books as a substitute teacher.

In fall 2014, the year following the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision to make marriage equality the law of the land, Billard and his partner made plans to wed in spring 2015.  On Oct. 25, 2014, Billard posted his wedding announcement on Facebook just to learn 2 months later on Christmas Day that he had been terminated by the diocese because of the Facebook post.

Judge’s Ruling:

The school and the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte violated workplace sex discrimination laws in firing the former drama teacher, Lonnie Billard, U.S. District Judge Max Cogburn Jr. ruled.

In his 54-page ruling Friday, Cogburn said federal laws protecting church autonomy and freedom of association didn’t “shield” the school and diocese from liability for violating sex discrimination laws in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Billard stated that he now has “a sense of relief and a sense of vindication.”

“I wish I could have remained teaching all this time. Today’s decision validates that I did nothing wrong by being a gay man.” – Billard

But was the church relieved?  Their statement boils down to them saying they “respectfully disagree” … “and are considering next steps.”

“The First Amendment, federal law, and recent Supreme Court decisions all recognize the rights of religious organizations to make employment decisions based on religious observance and preference. They do not — and should not — compel religious schools to employ teachers who publicly contradict their teachings.

The Catholic schools offered by the Diocese of Charlotte exist to provide high-quality education and transmit the Catholic faith to the next generation. Like all religious schools, Catholic schools are permitted to employ educators who support our Church’s teachings and will not publicly oppose them.”

The Charlotte Observer reports that a diocesan spokesman told Charlotte media at the time in 2014 that Billard lost his job “for going on Facebook, entering in a same-sex relationship and saying in a very public way that he does not agree with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

Compensation?

This is not the end of the case as the diocese will fight the ruling because now they believe in the separation of church and state when it suits them and there has not been a decision of compensation.

What did Billard request?  We are sure it wasn’t a return to the halls to teach at such an institution. In the lawsuit, Billard requested back pay and benefits, punitive damage, compensatory damages for emotional distress, and a court order blocking the school and Catholic leaders from taking similar punitive actions in the future.

We wish Billard luck in the rest of his fight.


Source: Charlotte Observer

 

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