By Alexandra Temblador
“Inspires Moral and Ethical Leadership by not only educating, but also requiring students to provide service to, embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society.”
The following sentence was taken directly from the “Belief Statements” page on Skutt Catholic’s, a private Catholic school in Omaha, Nebraska, website. Controversy surrounds Skutt Catholic at the moment because they chose not to renew Matthew Eledge’s contract for the next school year because he decided to marry his male partner.
“Embrace diversity within, and seek justice for their communities and the marginalized in our society…” This idea was truly instilled in Kacie Hughes, an alumn of Skutt Catholic, and current students who have started a petition to bring awareness to Mr. Matthew Eledge’s termination. These students are embracing diversity and seeking justice for a member of their community that has inspired them as students, a member who happens to be part of the LGBT community.
Matthew Eledge led the debate team to four state championships and has had a significant impact on his students and their families as over 36,000 signatures contends. Apparently, Eledge even debated postponing his wedding so that he could continue teaching at the school, however, he was later told by the school that he must end his relationship. Eledge has been reported to say that he is humbled by the support he has received but isn’t making comments in respect for Skutt Catholic, the Archdiocese of Omaha, and the Catholic Church.
According to KETV NewsWatch 7, a local news station in Omaha, Deacon Tim McNeil with the Archdiocese of Omaha said that Mr. Eledge’s “contract was not renewed because of his same-sex relationship but because of a contract violation…an unwed woman who became pregnant would also be in violation of this contract.” The contract reads: “the contract may be terminated…in the event of conduct in violation of Catholic Church doctrine, marriage in violation of Catholic Church doctrine.” The school is claiming that Mr. Eledge’s wish to marry a man is what violates the contract. What is confusing to many is how the school does not see that Eledge’s wish to marry a man and his sexual orientation are not inexplicably linked which has brought forth arguments that this is a discriminatory termination.
A few big question arise with the termination of Mr. Eledge, especially for the state of Nebraska. Recently a new bill, LB 586, was introduced to its legislature, a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Nebraska but would exempt any “religious corporation, association, or society” of which Skutt Catholic would fall under. The “religious exemption” clause and the situation at Skutt Catholic High School were brought up at the Capitol on Wednesday by people on both sides of the argument.
So what’s the right answer here? Yes, Mr. Eledge is technically violating his contract. But how many other teachers at this school have violated their contract? How many of the teachers use birth control, pills or condoms? How many have been divorced or had premarital relations?
As Dianne Miller, a mother of a student who Mr. Eledge coached in debate, said, “Out of the forty some teachers that we have at Skutt, I’d be hard-pressed to find one or two or three that haven’t fallen short in any category under the Catholic Church. So, to single out Eledge because of his sexual orientation, I think is a disservice to him, to the students, to us parents and to the community.”
If a private school wishes to have a moral clause in their contracts, they can. If those terms are violated, they absolutely have the right to terminate their employees for that violation. But what if they didn’t pursue every employee that violated those terms? It would only seem just and fair that they didn’t pick and choose which Catholic Church doctrines to focus on when upholding the contracts. Hopefully in previous years, they have held every teacher at the school to these codes. If not, Mr. Eledge’s termination could be termed discriminatory.
Alumni, students, and parents are working tirelessly for a man who has supported them, driven them to succeed, and helped them to learn, a type of teacher that many students across the nation might not ever have the opportunity of being taught by.
The students say, “We believe Mr. Eledge should not be fired because of his sexual orientation. We must take action and demand equality for a great teacher, a successful coach, and an even better human being.” Social justice seems to be their greatest concern with this petition: “When Mr. Eledge, or any other teacher, becomes engaged, what they do in their private life is between themselves and God. Not for us to assume or judge.”
The outcome of the petition for Mr. Eledge is not clear. However, it is clear by the overwhelming support that Mr. Eledge has had, that the ultimate outcome in the fight for equality for the LGBT community is this: the generations that are rising are “embracing diversity within and seeking justice for their communities,” and one day soon we will see all people have equal rights in all parts of society.
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