Parents are outraged after a favorite teacher at a Catholic school in Miami, Florida, was fired last Thursday upon marrying her longtime girlfriend.
“This weekend I married the love of my life and unfortunately I was terminated from my job as a result,” first-grade teacher Jocelyn Morffi wrote on social media. “In their eyes I'm not the right kind of Catholic for my choice in partner.”
Parents of the first-grade teacher’s students at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic School were outraged. Many stood up for her, taking their complaints and questions directly to the school following her departure.
“We were extremely livid,” said Cintia Cini, one of the parents of the children in Morffi’s class. “They treated her like a criminal, and they didn't even let her get her things out of her classroom.”
The school explained in a letter to parents, without explicitly mentioning Morffi’s sexual orientation, that the decision to fire her was a “difficult and necessary one.”
Archdiocese spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta said that Morffi violated the church rules of conduct.
"As a teacher in a Catholic school their responsibility is partly for the spiritual growth of the children," Agosta said. "One has to understand that in any corporation, institution or organization there are policies and procedures and teachings and traditions that are adhered to. If something along the way does not continue to stay within that contract, then we have no other choice."
The choice to terminate Morffi is unfair and unjust — but one that is perfectly legal under the laws of Florida and the United States as a whole. Religious institutions are free to discriminate on the basis of their beliefs, including against gay and lesbian employees.
But beyond those institutions, a terrifying precedent may be established under the administration of President Donald Trump. Religious “exemptions” for private businesses are being created for organizations, ranging from cake decorators to doctors, allowing them to discriminate against LGBT individuals if the owners' or workers' religious beliefs compel them to do so.
An argument can be made that Morffi’s termination, while unjust, is legal. But hopefully the community for which she taught can affect change in that school’s policies in order to allow the teacher to return and continue being a positive role model for her students.
The precedents and policies being established outside of religious organizations, however, cannot be seen as acceptable under any circumstances. Bigotry is not a policy worth defending in the private sphere, and businesses who engage in discrimination against members of the LGBT community should not be protected by fraudulent claims of a religious “right” to do so.
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Flickr, Wonder woman0731