Bishop O'Dowd teacher let go for not signing morality clause

Alan Wang Image
ByAlan Wang KGO logo
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Bishop O'Dowd program director and teacher Kathleen Purcell
Bishop O'Dowd program director and teacher Kathleen Purcell

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A teacher was let go after challenging a controversial morality clause at a local Catholic high school. Now, students and parents are joining the fight.

One of the teachers we spoke with used to practice constitutional law and she says the contract gives the church power over their personal lives. So she submitted a revised contract that was promptly rejected.

"This contract would be a huge step backwards, and would say, 'We're stripping these employees of civil rights,'" Bishop O'Dowd program director and teacher Kathleen Purcell said.

Purcell is out of a job after she signed, but crossed out portions of her contract demanding that teachers conform with the teachings of the Roman Catholic faith in both their professional and personal lives.

"Then you throw the employees' personal lives into the middle of all the disputes currently in the Catholic Church," Purcell said.

Some of those disputes include reproductive rights and gay and lesbian rights.

ABC7 News spoke with Diocese of Oakland spokesperson Mike Brown.

Brown: "What the contract says is they must teach the principals of the Roman Catholic Church."

Wang: "Which is not to be gay or lesbian."

Brown: "No. That is not at all what the Roman Catholic principals say. There is no denigrating of classes of people."

But now there's a groundswell of support for the teachers. Students almost walked out on Tuesday, but called it after a plea from the principal on the intercom. So now they'll meet with the bishop first.

"I feel that it's wrong and the Diocese shouldn't have control of our teachers' lives. Our school character is we are a community in diversity," Bishop O'Dowd student Christopher LaBoa said.

Some parents are now threatening to withhold donations. They've created a Facebook page calling for a protest on May 30. The diocese says the outcry is prompting the bishop to meet with parents and students as early as next week.