A lesbian teacher in Canada who was not permitted to return to the classroom after her same-sex partner gave birth to their son has said that she will not lodge a complaint against the Catholic school, even though she says that the way the school handled the situation is "dishonorable," an April 29 Canadian Press article said.
"I’m going to let this unfold," said Lisa Reimer, who had been hired as a music instructor by Little Flower Academy, a Catholic all-girls school, for one year, as a replacement for a teacher who was away on maternity leave. Reimer has asked for parental leave herself, which the school denied, but she was granted three weeks of personal leave, the article said.
But just before she was scheduled to return to the classroom, Reimer claims, she was brought in for a meeting and told that she would not be allowed to resume teaching in the classroom. She was told to prepare lessons that could be delivered online.
"I have been instructed that all the classes are cancelled and I’m not to come into the school at all or have any direct contact with the students," said Reimer, "but I am to provide all the classes, through Grade 8 to 12, an online written assignment." Continued Reimer, "You wouldn’t give a written assignment in a performing arts class to make up an entire term."
GLBT equality advocate group Pride Education Network claimed in an April 28 press release that the principal of the Little Flower Academy had informed Reimer that parents of some of the students were worried "the girls might follow Ms. Reimer’s lead." One member of the group, Steve LeBel, used to be a teacher; he said that the school’s pupils were being given the message that, "our principal thinks it’s fine to let someone go because they’re a lesbian."
Instructors at Catholic schools are often contractually required to abide by church teachings; instructors who are not Catholic, as is the case with Reimer, are required to treat the church’s doctrines with respect. So-called "Catholicity clauses" stem from a 1984 court case that established precedent in Canadian law that allows non-profit religious organizations to give preference to members of their own faith over non-members, and makes it possible for employees to be terminated if the employer determines that he or she is not following a faith’s religious principles, reported The Vancouver Sun on April 29. In the 1984 case, Caldwell vs. St. Thomas Aquinas, a teacher was fired from a Catholic high school after she married a divorced man. That precedent could be invoked today to fire a teacher for living with a life partner out of wedlock, the article said.
The Canadian Supreme Court upheld that legal principle in a 2001 case that challenged Trinity Western University, a religious school, for its mandate that students avoid same-sex intimacy along with other "biblically condemned" behavior.
But the Sun noted that some view the 1984 precedent as out of step with the times. Vancouver attorney Tom Beasley who specializes in employment and labor issues, told the Sun that, "The question in this case is a conflict between the fundamental right of freedom of religion and sexual orientation." Added Beasley, "Society has evolved a fair bit since 1984 and the Caldwell decision. The approach taken by society to human rights matters and the interplay between religion and sexual orientation, as one example, has changed. So I am sure the courts will look at this differently than they did 30 years ago."
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