NORMANDY — An openly gay music teacher at a Catholic school in suburban St. Louis has been fired after church officials learned he was planning to marry his partner of 20 years.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Al Fischer's Feb. 17 firing from St. Ann Catholic School follows a Jan. 11 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that religious employees of a church cannot sue for employment discrimination.
Fischer, who had worked at the north St. Louis County school for four years, declined to discuss the firing other than to confirm it. He referred to a letter emailed to parents in which he encouraged parents to talk to their children "about whether or not justice was served."
The letter continued: "I do not want the lesson from this for the kids to be, 'Keep your mouth shut, hide who you are or what you think if it will get you in trouble.'"
Fischer's partner, Charlie Robin, executive director of Washington University's Edison Theatre, told the Post-Dispatch that the couple's relationship was in no way a secret at St. Ann. He said he attended staff parties and showed up at school concerts.
But Robin said that shortly after a representative of the St. Louis Archdiocese overheard Fischer talking to co-workers about his wedding plans, Fischer was told he would be fired March 9. That's the couple's 20th anniversary and the day of their planned nuptials in New York, where same-sex marriage is legal.
Robin said the timing of the firing was moved up after he wrote about it on Facebook on Feb. 16.
The Rev. Bill Kempf, St. Ann's pastor, said in an emailed statement that the parish was "recently informed by one of its teachers of his plan to unite in marriage with an individual of the same sex. With full respect of this individual's basic human dignity, this same-sex union opposes Roman Catholic teaching as it cannot realize the full potential a marital relationship is meant to express."
The St. Louis Archdiocese said in a statement that it supports the school's action "as it is in full compliance with the Christian Witness Statement signed by every educator in the Catholic school system." Among other things, the statement requires that educators "not take a public position contrary to the Catholic Church" and "demonstrate a public life consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church."
Although the Roman Catholic Church does not condemn homosexuals who remain "chaste," it opposes same-sex marriage and homosexual acts.
Robin, who is a practicing Catholic, said he hopes to see the church change how it treats gays.
"Everyone involved in this process I know is committed to good," he said. "The problem is blindly following the doctrine isn't committed to good."