Students, parents and alums protest after Saint Mary's withdraws - KPTV - FOX 12

Students, parents and alums protest after Saint Mary's withdraws job offer due to same-sex marriage belief

Posted: Updated: Aug 26, 2015 07:37 PM

A report published Tuesday contends a Portland school withdrew a job offer based on the teacher’s same-sex marriage beliefs.

Lauren Brown, 27, had accepted a position as a college counselor at Saint Mary’s Academy. The school then withdrew the offer after Brown told the school she was going to marry another woman.

Christina Friedhoff, St. Mary's Academy president, sent out a letter out to alumnae Tuesday evening explaining the decision, noting that administrators had the support of the school's Board of Directors and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, congregation that founded the school.

The school released a statement Tuesday noting that while society and other may hold, "different values," the school was obligated to follow church teachings when it comes to hiring staff.

St. Mary's Academy is a Catholic high school for young women that provides a challenging college-preparatory education in a vibrant learning environment. We are grounded in the Catholic religion and sponsored by our founders, the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. St. Mary's nurtures the Catholic identity, practice, culture and mission on which we were founded. We understand that others may hold different values, and we respect the right of individuals in society to do so. At the same time, as a Catholic high school we are obligated to follow current Catholic teachings regarding same-sex marriage in our employment practices.

According to Willamette Week, St. Mary’s withdrew Brown’s job offer this month and promised a year’s salary and benefits to stay quiet about the situation.

It is now believed that Brown could sue the school based on their stance.

Parents, students and alumnae of the school have been speaking out on the decision, posting on social media with the hashtag #FightForSMA, sharing letters of disappointment in the move and dressing up a statue at the school in protest of the decision.

Wednesday morning the school had suspended their official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, but reactivated the Twitter and Facebook feeds Wednesday afternoon.

Students came by the school throughout the day Wednesday, many saying the actions did not remind them of the school they know an love.

“When I heard the news, I thought it was extremely unfortunate and very unlike St. Mary’s,” senior Mia Thurman said.

"Our whole religion class last year was all about ethics and social justice, and to do something that we were told is not right, it’s just really surprising,” senior Katie Ferrarini added

David Renshaw, Director of Communications for the Archdiocese of Portland, issued a statement supporting the school, and noted that the archdiocese expects protection of "religious liberty" if the issue went to court.

The Archdiocese of Portland supports St. Mary’s Academy and the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary in upholding the teachings of the Catholic Church.  We expect that given certain reassurances by the Federal Government in the wake of the recent Supreme Court Ruling making ‘Same-Sex Unions’ the law of the land, our religious liberty would be protected in this case as well as any future cases of this sort.

Parents like Christi Ziegler expressed disappointment with the decision, but said her child would remain at the school.

“i understand why they had to do it. I get it. I’m not happy about it," she said. "I’m very disappointed, but I’m not going to pull my daughter out and ruin her future.”

Many civic leaders in Portland have spoken out on the decision. In a statement, Mayor Charlie Hales noted that he believes all organizations in Portland should follow the cities non-discrimination clause.

"Portland is a city that embraces rights and opportunities for everyone. Those aren’t just nice words. They are also the law," Hales said in the release. "We believe St. Mary’s Academy, and every other public, private and nonprofit organization in the city, should follow the letter and the spirit of the law, and our shared values."

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish tweeted that "St. Mary's flunks a basic test of fairness" in the decision, while Oregon State Treasurer added that he sided with "alumni and students of St. Mary's Academy who disagree with their school's actions." Author Cheryl Strayed tweeted that change was needed.

"I'm shocked to read this, though I shouldn't be. Time to change, St. Mary's," she tweeted.

Students protesting at St. Mary's want to be clear they support Lauren Brown.

"St. Mary’s just wants to love the LGBT community and we can’t really support any demeaning messages that the Catholic church might send," senior Fiona Smith said.

 Copyright 2015 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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