Students at the Catholic Chestnut Hill College in Pennsylvania have urged support for the gay pastor whose teaching contract was not renewed after he spoke openly about a gay relationship.

Jessica Murray, 23, plans to hold a rally on Saturday in support of the pastor, in direct protest at the actions of the university board, reports Philly.com, a Philadelphia news source.

In an email to its students, the board of Chestnut Hill College claims that Rev St. George was not fired, but that: “A new contract for the upcoming session was not offered to Jim St. George, not because he is gay, but because his recent public statements regarding his long-term, same-sex partnership are at odds with the beliefs and mission of Chestnut Hill College and the Catholic Church.”

The college’s president, Sister Carol Jean Vale said: “It was with great disappointment we learned through St. George’s public statements of his involvement in a gay relationship with another man for the past 15 years.

“It is important to note that this information came to our attention only after St. George chose to make his private life public information on his blog.”

The university subsequently chose not to renew St George’s contract.

Murray, who plans to organise the a petition urging the college to reverse its decision, said told Philly.com: “Nobody cares about his personal life. He’s an amazing teacher. Now, because some stranger is angry, the students are missing out.”

She added that the college had blocked her from its Facebook page when she pressed for information about St. George’s status.

Chestnut Hill College also claims St. George represented himself as Roman Catholic, whereas he was part of a “house of worship” which allows priests to engage in “same-sex partnerships”. St. George claims he was always clear his church, St. Miriam Catholic Apostolic Church, had no ties to Roman Catholicism.