Lafayette

Apr 3, 2013 8:10 PM by Allison Bourne-Vanneck

New Morality Clause Ends One Teacher's Career At Fatima

A new morality clause that is now included in Diocese of Lafayette teachers' contracts bars teachers from engaging in homosexual activity, using birth control or being married outside the church, KATC has learned.

The new clause has led to the end of at least one teacher's career at Our Lady of Fatima School, who is gay.

"Fatima School did not ask me to leave. It was because I could not sign my contract and be honest to its content," teacher Jane Riviere said in a statement. "The leadership was very respectful, compassionate and understanding during this process."

Riviere, a longtime art teacher at Fatima, will not be returning to the school next year because of the contract.

"I love this school and wish all the best to everyone involved. While I do not agree, I accept the position of the Diocese," Riviere said.

It is unclear whether any other teachers have declined to sign a contract as a result of the new morality clause.

The Diocese of Lafayette declined to comment on the clause, when it went into affect and why it was put in place.

"It is the policy of the Diocese that personnel issues are not discussed in a public forum," said diocese human resources director Maureen Fontenot.

The new clause is not sitting well with everyone associated with Fatima. Parent Jaci Russo, the president of Our Lady of Fatima Advisory Council -- the equivalent of a school board -- said Fatima has an amazing group of educators.

"I would hate to think we would ever not renew the contract of a teacher who is an outstanding teacher because of something to do with her personal life," Russo said.

But although everyone may not agree with the clause, as a religious and private employer, the Diocese likely did nothing illegally when it instituted the new morality clause, said LSU Law professor William Corbett.

"Some states actually do have state employment discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, about 24, 25 states have state laws that say that. Louisiana's does not. Louisiana's state employment discrimination law covers all the grounds covered by Federal law, and a few others, but not sexual orientation," Corbett said.

Corbett said morality clauses are common at both public and private schools, and he's not surprised that the Catholic diocese in Lafayette is now asking teachers to sign them.

"What is a little bit more surprising is the specificity of this one, that it goes into specific definitions of what it means about morality," Corbett said.

While Louisiana law says its legal for morality clauses to include sexual orientation, on the Federal level, employment discrimination also doesn't include sexual orientation.

"It's been proposed at the Federal level a number of times to amend the Federal employment discrimination statue to include prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. It's come very close to passage, but never quite made it," Corbett said.

The Catholic diocese morality clause also allegedly discusses birth control and marriage.

"Given this is a Catholic school, and a Catholic owned operated school I don't find it that surprising they do specifically define what they mean by morality," Corbett said.

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