Catholic High School Cor Jesu Fires Gay Teachers, Former Students to Protest

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The all-girls Catholic high school Cor Jesu Academy: No boys or gays allowed.
For Olivia Reichert and Christina Gambaro, this was supposed to be a summer to remember. But not like this.

Earlier this summer the couple traveled to New York to get married, and upon returning to St. Louis signed a mortgage on a house together. By the end of July they were anticipating the start of the school year at Cor Jesu Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school near Affton where the newlyweds were employed as teachers.

But after the school got ahold of the couple's mortgage application, Reichert, a P.E. teacher and coach, and Gambaro, a social studies teacher, announced on a private Facebook group that the administration had terminated them both, citing a violation of school's morality clause.

See also: St. Louis Archdiocese Condemns Gay Marriage, Lectures Everyone But Catholic Church on Sex

The news of the firings rippled among alumnae on social media and into the St. Louis LGBT community, but for weeks the commotion occurred largely in private. Cor Jesu alumnae tell Daily RFT that many former students contacted the school in outrage, but they chose to avoid publicly condemning the school in order protect the couple's privacy.

Reichert and Gambaro finally went public with their story on Monday, after a Vital Voice article published over the weekend broke the news of the firings. The article quoted Brian Sieve, a Catholic educator in St. Louis and Chicago, who harshly criticized alumnae for their silence.

"Where are their voices? Where are the hundreds, if not thousands, of lesbian alumnae?" Sieve told the Voice. "Do they really see justice in this, or any other LGBT witch hunt?"

The couple responded on Monday to defend the alumnae, outing themselves in the process.

"They have not gone public with this story out of respect, and we are beyond grateful for that," explained Gambaro. "Instead, they have written letters to the administration informing them that they have pulled their financial support. You might not think this is much, but it has made enough of an impact that the administration has had to address the dip in support. That, to us, is a victory."

See also: Why Same-Sex Marriage Will Probably Be Legal in Missouri By Next Year

Indeed, Cor Jesu alumnae hadn't been sitting on their laurels. Soon after the firings, one former student created the private Facebook group Chargers Allies, "an unofficial group of alumnae committed to sharing the love of Christ with those who identify as LGBTQ in the CJA community," according to the group's about section.

The Facebook page lists more than 300 members, including Jessica Buha. She graduated from Cor Jesu in 2004 and now lives in Chicago.

"The main reason I've become really invested in it is the thought of current students who feel like something is wrong with them, who feel like they are broken," says Buha. "The message that the administration is showing is if you are gay then you are not welcome in our community. That's what the stakes are, and it's shitty and awful."

Buha tells Daily RFT that she knew several gay classmates during her time at Cor Jesu, and that she never forgot watching them struggle with constant fear of being outed.

The Facebook group has also expanded into a website, chargersallies.com. Buha says the site, once fully developed, will serve the as public face of support for current LGBT students.

"It's important to show the St. Louis community that, yes, Cor Jesu alumnae aren't going to silently acquiesce to this status quo of firing teachers," she says.

See also: 16 Signs You Went to Catholic High School in St. Louis

It's not just recent graduates who are speaking out. St. Louis resident Pat Richards received her diploma in 1972, and she knew lesbian students living in secret back then as well. She says she worries for the school's current LGBT population.

"Cor Jesu has been such a strong, positive institution in this community for as long as they've been there, and it's always been a home to these girls. That's probably the thing that saddens my heart more than anything," Richards says. She has sent all five of her daughters to Cor Jesu.

"These young teenage people are dealing with their identities," she continues, "and we've pushed these young women who are struggling even farther back. For them to see something like this unfold in front of them, what kind of hope has been pulled away?"

In a statement, a Cor Jesu spokesperson declined to comment specifically on the firings, saying that the school "does not discuss personnel matters."

"We understand that, as a Catholic institution, Cor Jesu has an obligation to ensure that its employees serve as Christian role models," Reichert wrote in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Wednesday. She goes on to accuse the school of targeting the couple for their sexual orientation and unfairly enforcing the morality clause in the their contracts.

Buha, Richards and other alumnae tell Daily RFT that they're drawing up plans for further LGBT support at Cor Jesu. Local LGBT activists are calling on allies, former students, faculty and the broader Cor Jesu community to protest the terminations by attending a peaceful gathering tomorrow morning at 7:45 a.m. at Gravois and South Laclede Station Road, near the Cor Jesu campus.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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137 comments
Donna Hofbauer Young
Donna Hofbauer Young

They fire them but .protect the pedofile priests double standard. Screams of discrimimation

Modello
Modello

Let me aks:  Wasn't there a scandal at a "girls school" in Africa (started by Oprah and her "friend" Gayle that had a lesbian teacher scandal.  I think Oprah fired the poor accused gals with NO due process.  Do our values change across the Atlantic Ocean. Where are Ellen and Rosie on this one?

Ellyn Hloben
Ellyn Hloben

The Post Dispatch quoted a former student who said they were fired because they had married which violated the policy. They further stated had they been fired for being gay it would've happened months ago. Just two different newspapers with two different points of view I suppose.

John Neubauer
John Neubauer

good we dont need gays teaching our children, they have alterior motives.

Lisa Coleman
Lisa Coleman

No, they were fired for being gay. Do hetero couples get fired for being married?

Ellyn Hloben
Ellyn Hloben

One again misinformation from RFT. They were not fired for being gay. They were fired for being married.

Noah Leitch
Noah Leitch

So they were good enough to teach there until they were found out huh.....

Christopher Schmidt
Christopher Schmidt

Wow misspellings in the above post and can't even spell Affton correctly in the main article, knew I should have been a proofreader. In Catholic institutions it's their way only or the highway but okay for priests to molest children and get away with it, truly screwed up religion. Nothing wrong with being a lesbian and a Christian these days, it is 2014 not the 1300s.

Andrew Grass
Andrew Grass

Its this simple...They signed a contract the brook that contract. I dont personally like it but Cor Jesus is within their rights. If you're gay dont apply for work at a Catholic institution. Again, not saying I agree with their firing but this is what happens.

Matt Simpson
Matt Simpson

When a company hires an individual, they expect them to hold the same or similar values of the company. The Roman Catholic Church (which is the largest Christian denomination in the world at 500 million) values a traditional view of marriage. They expect their employees to have similar views. When an employee holds contradictory views and philosophies, that company is allowed and expected to terminate that employment. That is exactly what happened here. Again, why is this news?

Krystol D. Trice
Krystol D. Trice

I'm wondering the same thing. Usually such documents are protected under privacy laws. Only the property deed is available to the public, which may or may not state the nature of the homeowners' relationship with each other. In most states, if the homeowners are not married, the property deed specifies that each party is an unmarried person. That even doesn't tell anyone their sexual orientation.

Jeanne Locklear
Jeanne Locklear

I'm still trying to figure out how and why the school administrators would be privy to their mortgage application? Many privacy issues here.

Rhonda Whelan
Rhonda Whelan

Catholics...the religion where it's ok for their priests to molest little boys and hide it and they don't get fired, but will out a hard working lesbian couple and fire them instead. Such hypocrisy....

Tyson Wunderlich
Tyson Wunderlich

Is it wrong for a church/school with beliefs to enforce those beliefs upon their employees? Is it wrong for a marital-equality group to enforce their beliefs upon a religion?

Kelly Eugea
Kelly Eugea

That's the simple-minded viewpoint that will deter our society from growing.

Gary Berry
Gary Berry

Typically, whether Catholic or another denomination, gay people or those that simply live with their struggle of possibly being gay, fear being outed and the judgmental attitude of the people around them. They would hope for nothing other than equal and fair justice. This is not a matter of special rights but a desire for fairness. Regardless of how I find myself feeling, which is conservative, I would hope that people would be treated fair in their jobs. However, I suppose one most remember it is a private and religious school. A church or private school owned, paid for and operated by the church usually have pages of rules for their employees to sign. This school is part of the Catholic Church as a whole and they have not gone far from their roots for centuries. A public school would not have done this as they have anti-discrimination laws in place but not so with the private schools owned by churches.

Matt Simpson
Matt Simpson

How so? It's a religious body that has the power to hire and fire based on that individual's belief and practice and whether it lines up with the church.

Matt Simpson
Matt Simpson

Ok. Think: two lesbians were working for an church/religious body that believes their lifestyle/choice is a sin. This has happened before and will happen again. And the constitution protects this church's right to exercise their beliefs. Not sure why these women would want to work for a church that disagreed with their lifestyle.

Matthew R Kerns
Matthew R Kerns

Not sure why this is news... Two of your fellow citizens are being discriminated against for living their lives in our free society...

Kelly Eugea
Kelly Eugea

Then you, sir, are part of the problem.

Brian Boyd
Brian Boyd

Yet these same people that are mad at the school have no problem forcing some guy to deliver a cake to a gay wedding. Maybe these teachers can get a job in a nice public school like Normandy?

Brian Boyd
Brian Boyd

The kids are protesting when they are supposed to be in school. The equivalent of that for me would be protesting while I'm supposed to be at work. Use your fucking brain.

Matthew R Kerns
Matthew R Kerns

Jesus Christ was about love. The Catholics are about hate and control. Their doctrine is in the way of the teachings of their savior.

Matthew R Kerns
Matthew R Kerns

And Pamela if we dont follow your bullshit catholic rules of how to control and run our life...you will go on a witch hunt of our personal lives and fire us.....Cor Jesu administration should be fired...and the catholic faith should get over it. Pamela, did they also teach hundreds of priests to molest young boys? What about shellfish....do they fire you if you eat it....that is in the bible as well....how come the Catholics can have it both ways?

Pamela J. Darmody
Pamela J. Darmody

Also, this is not about Cor Jesu. Any Catholic establishment would have been forced to make this decision. We as Catholics believe that marriage is a sacrament between a man and woman only. It doesn't mean that we don't love others who choose to marry same sex individuals or admit they are gay.. We are taught to be tolerant and to respect. However, our Catholic schools have a right to take a stance against allowing leaders to teach the principals that they are not abiding by themselves.

Pamela J. Darmody
Pamela J. Darmody

Sorry, but this isn't just about being gay. We as Catholics are taught to love our neighbors and be respectful of each other no matter what sexual orientation . We are loving and forgiving. However, being leaders at the school and disobeying the morality clause that the school has is in place is what this is about... The fundamental teaching of the Catholic faith teaches that marriage is a sacrament between a man and a woman. I doubt the Church will ever change its teaching on this. The teachers signed a clause specifically stating they would not violate this. And, by getting married over the summer,, they knowingly violated their contract. If a teacher would have had an abortion, the same thing would have happened. Abortion is legal, but the Catholic faith does not support this. If a teacher overtly would brag about having sex outside of marriage, the same thing would apply. The fact that the teachers made the next step I by getting married overtly challenged the school and compromised their contract. They made a choice and so did the school!

BennyBob Northcutt
BennyBob Northcutt

Matthew go eat a dick. Quit crying about high school. Bitch ass Nancy boy

Matthew R Kerns
Matthew R Kerns

And as someone who spent 13 years in those schools as well I was called fag quite a lot and it was always allowed and accepted by the adults about....except for a few and they never lasted long in the places.

Matthew R Kerns
Matthew R Kerns

And what about the gay students? What about all the adult men who were molested? What about ALL the hate the catholic church spreads.....RUN FROM THE CATHOLIC CHURCH!

Matthew R Kerns
Matthew R Kerns

Becky, i know the new pope and am following his adventures.... But the shit aint changing. Lip service. And you wont even take your kids out of that shithole to protest the firing of these people...how about fire the administration that did this? RUN FROM CATHOLICISM IT IS THE WORST RELIGION TO BE BROUGHT UP IN... EVER!!!! I know. I was....and i have never been happier or more spiritual in my religious life since I divorced that bullshit.

Linda SansSouci
Linda SansSouci

So, by your reasoning, James, as long as these teachers do not actually have sex at school, they should be allowed to pursue their professions?

Jay Bee
Jay Bee

Cor Jesu and several other catholic schools in the St. Louis area have LGBT or Queers and Allies clubs, why aren't these being disbanded? Answer:Because they are necessary and vital to a growing community. So why are good teachers who are also necessary and vital to a school being fired? Sounds like a double standard. Shame on you Cor Jesu and everyone on this post who are filled with hate.

Jay Bee
Jay Bee

I was referring to the fact that the attending catholic school is not their choice but the choice of a parent or guardian. Being gay isn't a choice, period. What you are recommending is great it theory but not the reality.

BeaJohnson
BeaJohnson

If they had a problem with the contract or felt forced to sign a contract with a morality aspect then they shouldn't have signed it. The Catholic Church doesn't condemn people for their sexual orientation. The Catholic Church doesn't care for the affections they display towards one another. They believe that God created a man and a woman. And a man and a woman can reproduce because of their biology. A man and a man or a woman and a woman cannot reproduce together. Biologically speaking it is not natural. That is the reason why Catholics have a problem with homosexuality. We have to look at the issue from both sides.

Dawn Rednour
Dawn Rednour

I'm an advocate for the rainbow generation& have many gay/lesbian friends& family members but the religious school has the right to fire them for their lifestyle as it goes against their teachings, even thou it's way way outdated.I personally wouldn't work at a place that could/would hold my sexual preference against me. Just my opinion thou. I hope they sue and win. Public schools would probably be better to work at anyway since religious schools are so against anything that goes against their beliefs

billj598
billj598 topcommenter

@BeaJohnson "woman and a woman cannot reproduce together" ...aw schucks, they do it all the time via Turkey Baster :-) ! 


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