A language teacher at a Catholic high school near Philadelphia was terminated from his job last week after he told school officials he was applying for a gay marriage license with his partner in neighboring New Jersey.
Michael Griffin, who taught French and Spanish at the Holy Ghost Preparatory School for 12 years, lost his job last week after he filed for a same-sex marriage license in New Jersey, where he lives with his partner, Vincent Giannetto. Father James McCloskey, the headmaster at the school located in Philadelphia's suburb of Bensalem, said in a statement that the school must abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church, and Griffin had violated his contract with the school when he applied for a same-sex marriage license.
According to KERO-TV 23, McCloskey said Griffin's decision contradicted "the terms of his teaching contract at our school, which requires all faculty and staff to follow the teachings of the Church as a condition of their employment. In discussion with Mr. Griffin, he acknowledged that he was aware of this provision, yet he said that he intended to go ahead with the ceremony."
The school's principal, Jeff Danilak, was made aware of Griffin's plans to file for a same-sex marriage license when the language teacher sent an email to the principal last Thursday night informing him that he may be late for a Friday morning teacher in-service because he would be applying for a marriage license in New Jersey. McCloskey reportedly told Griffin in a Friday afternoon meeting that the email had made his same-sex marriage public, and therefore showed a violation of his employee contract.
Griffin, who is also a graduate from the all-boys preparatory school, expressed his shock at his termination via Facebook late last week. "Today I applied for a marriage license since NJ now has marriage equality," Griffin wrote. "After 12 years together I was excited to finally be able to marry my partner. Because of that, I was fired from Holy Ghost Preparatory School today. I am an alumnus of the school and have taught there for 12 years. I feel hurt, saddened, betrayed and except for this post, am at a loss for words."
Griffin added to NBC 10 Philadelphia that he was especially surprised by his termination because he was never secret about his relationship with his partner, reportedly bringing him to school functions and even once to Father McCloskey's house. "I've been with my partner for more than 12 years, the entire time I've been teaching at the school," said Griffin. "He's been to numerous school functions with me, he's even been to McCloskey's house."
Griffin added to Philly.com that he feels he was clearly open about his homosexuality and his relationship with his partner, and he doesn't think the email he sent last week revealed anything that wasn't previously obvious. "Clearly, we were a couple. We both wear rings, and we were together. The alums and donors, they could all see that."
The language teacher went on to reference an April fundraiser where he and his partner reportedly sat next to Principal Danilak. "To me, that was much more public than me e-mailing the principal, so I don't understand, if [they] were going to fire me, why not in April, why not for the civil union, why not at the first time I brought my partner to the school? That's why it's sort of a shock to me," he said.
Holy Ghost Preparatory School is a private Roman Catholic secondary educational institution founded by the members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, the Spiritans. It "aspires to form young men morally, intellectually, and spiritually in the Spiritan tradition." The school states in its philosophy: "Holy Ghost Preparatory School pursues the truth, and sees God in all that it undertakes. It is our age-old belief that a solid, Catholic education in the modern era must seek to inculcate in each student a firm appreciation of and an unwavering fidelity to the beliefs and principles taught by Christ through the Catholic Church while also imbuing within each student a deep respect for the beliefs of others."