The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has told teachers that coming out as gay or supporting LGBT issues will almost certainly be grounds for termination.
The new contract warns potential educators that any conduct that goes against the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church and "would reflect discredit on or cause scandal to the School" could result in termination, and says that any public support of things like the "homosexual lifestyle," sex out of wedlock, and abortion, among other issues, is strictly prohibited.
The changes came to light late last month and have come under fire by LGBT advocates at the Human Rights Campaign, with HRC denouncing the rules teachers are asked to agree to as taking "discrimination to a new level." HRC also noted the new contract comes in the wake of several firings of gay and lesbian teachers from Catholic schools in Ohio and across the country for going public with their sexual orientation or marriage to a same-sex spouse.
"Doubling down on discrimination is never a good thing, and that's exactly what the Archdiocese has done," said Paul Guequierre, an HRC spokesman. "The fact that they will discriminate in this fashion is bad enough. The fact that they felt the need to spell it out is worse and clearly meant to intimidate, not inform, as they say."
When asked about the changes, the archdiocese defended the new contract and said the changes are simply meant to clarify the rules for teachers who are not as familiar with the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
The new contract doesn't "go any further" than current or previous contracts in setting teacher conduct expectations, according to Dan Andriacco, director of communications at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
"We've had a moral conduct clause for years, as many secular employers have," Andriacco said. "What's different for 2014–2015 is that we have added some examples for the guidance of teachers who may not be familiar with the Catholic faith. We think this is fairer to our teachers so they are clear as to what's meant."
But Guequierre contends it doesn't matter if the policy is new or not. "It's wrong," he said. "Pope Francis has extended an olive branch to LGBT people and the Cincinnati Diocese is not following his teaching of the Golden Rule — treat others as you would like to be treated. Their actions are disgraceful and not in keeping with the church's teaching on the dignity of every human being."
HRC points to a number of firings within schools operated by the archdiocese — including an assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School was fired in 2013 for writing about his support of marriage equality on his blog. When asked if the contract changes were made as a result of similar incidents, Andriacco told BuzzFeed they "were based on our own experiences in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati."
"It has become apparent to us that not all teachers understand the sort of public stances and behaviors that would be problematical for a Catholic school teacher, so wrote language that was more specific in that regard," he said.
While the current teacher contract includes a morality clause which requires teachers to adhere to Catholic Church teachings both "inside and outside of the classroom," the new contract gets more specific, first saying, "[t]eacher-Minister also agrees to exemplify Catholic principles 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 doctrine or morals" and then pointing to examples:
"Such conduct or lifestyle that is in contradiction to Catholic doctrine or morals includes, but is not limited to, improper use of social media/communication, public support of or publicly living together outside marriage, public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock, public support of or homosexual lifestyle, public support of or use of abortion, public support of or use of surrogate mother, public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination, public membership in organization whose mission and message are incompatible with Catholic doctrine or morals, and/or flagrant deceit or dishonesty."
Potential employees are then asked to acknowledge and affirm this toward the end of the contract.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.