Students unite in support of gay teacher sacked from Catholic school because of his sexuality
High school students have thrown their support behind a beloved gay teacher who was allegedly sacked for violating the Catholic school’s anti-LGBT+ policies.
English teacher Jim Zimmerman had worked at Alter High School in Ohio for 23 years, and is a graduate of the school himself. He was forced out when an anonymous person sent a copy of his marriage certificate to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which oversees the school and opposes same-sex marriage.
As a result, officials at the archdiocese made the decision not to renew his teaching contract for the following year.
But the “outrageous” policy clearly isn’t backed by the student body, who launched a petition to “Fight for Mr Zimmerman’s right to teach”.
As of publication, it has gained more than 18,500 signatures.
“The Church has always told me and my fellow students to love and accept others,” wrote Michael Ferguson, the student who launched the petition. “But what the Archdiocese is doing is not accepting nor loving Mr Zimmerman but pushing him away just because who he loves.”
On Friday dozens of students and alumni gathered in a park next to the school in support of their favourite teacher. Adhering to social distancing rules, they stayed in their cars, sounding the horns playing a set of Zimmerman’s favourite songs.
The students say he is “more than just a good English teacher,” and encourages them to speak their minds in class.
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“He’s super intelligent, but he makes us think for ourselves – he gives us space to have our own opinions and voices,” Alter student Molly Goheen told the Dayton Daily News. “He’s one of the best teachers at Alter.”
Another student, Meredith Russ, added: “He teaches us very important lessons, not just about literature or English but about being a good person, how to stand up for yourself, how to think creatively.
“I think Mr Zimmerman exemplifies everything it means to be a teacher and to be a disciple of God.”
The archdiocese of Cincinnati describes homosexuality as “disordered” and “immoral”, and even provides programmes for LGBT+ people and their families to encourage them to never act on “same-sex attraction”.
Teachers at any Catholic school controlled by the archdiocese are forced to sign a “teacher-minister” contract every year.
The contract states that a teacher must “exemplify Catholic principles in a manner consistent with teacher-minister’s relationship with the Catholic Church and to refrain from any conduct or lifestyle which would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the school or be in contradiction to Catholic social doctrine or morals.”
Jennifer Schack, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese, said earlier this week that the church “values all of our teachers,” but she would comment only generally about personnel matters.