Two Catholic Churches have been criticised for firing three married gay musicians, reportedly after the pastor was discovered that the men were in same-sex marriages.
Bob Bernard and Travis Loeffler were removed from their roles as musicians at the St Joseph’s Catholic church in Minnesota last month after over 20 combined years of service.
Loeffler’s husband Dominic Mitchell was also removed from a voluntary position from the nearby St Francis Xavier parish.
The two churches are joined, sharing a congregation and pastor, the Reverend John Drees.
Reverend Drees joined the St Joseph and St Francis Xavier churches last year and reportedly discovered the sexualities of the musicians shortly before their surprise termination.
Bernard stated that he firmly believed that his termination was directly due to his sexuality.
He said:”[I was let go] because I entered into a civil marriage with another man.
“We understand what the church’s teachings are on marriage at the same time I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”
According to Fox9, Father Drees has denied allegations that the terminations were due to the musicians’ sexuality, although no formal reason has been given.
Bernard was reportedly told that he would not be able to continue in his role at St Joseph’s as his marriage to his husband ‘was confusing to the parishioners.’
All three men are still allowed to be part of the church and have reportedly been supported by the rest of the congregation since their firings.
Despite his termination after 15 years with the church, Bernard was firm with his support for the church and insisted that he had no plans to leave.
He said: “We didn’t want this to turn out to be another ‘bash the Catholic Church’ story, and we’re emphatic about that.”
Reverend Drees said that neither he nor the parish could comment on individual cases but denied any allegations of discrimination.
He said: “I can assure you that we do not change employees’, vendors’ or volunteers’ statuses because they are gay.”
Father Michael Tix, a leader of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, gave a statement to CBS in response to the terminations.
He said: “It’s the pastor or administrator and his lay leaders who are best able to assess what is necessary for building a team that can give a credible witness to the Gospel in that community.
“We urge our pastors to be both fair and consistent in the applications of rules and standards.”
Bill Donohue of anti-gay group the Catholic League compared the musicians to the case of a white supremacist fired from his job as a teacher.
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He said: “The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage and racism. While neither the gay men nor the white supremacist were openly flouting their convictions, once their status became publicly known, Catholic officials had little choice but to dismiss them.
“Not to do so would be to give sanction to behaviours that are in direct contradiction to the teachings of the Church.”
In 2014 a Church in Indiana made headlines when the congregation walked out in protest after their music director was fired for being gay.
Less than a year later, the church was forced to close – citing financial problems and falling attendance, after the congregation walked out en masse in protest at the sacking.