Booster

World watches, support grows for Carla Hale

Lawyer plans to file complaint with city of Columbus; union grievance filed last week

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Springtime hailstorms aren't exactly unheard of in Clintonville, but this Halestorm is only growing more intense as the days pass.

Controversy over the dismissal of longtime Bishop Watterson High School physical education instructor Carla D. Hale showed no signs of abating last week.

Hale, who was fired in March after returning from bereavement leave following the death of her mother, held a press conference at Stonewall Columbus last week, a day after meeting with Bishop Watterson Principal Marian Hutson in an unsuccessful bid to be reinstated.

Hale lost her job of 19 years after an anonymous letter pointed out the obituary for her mother revealed she is in a domestic relationship with another woman.

According to Hale, Hutson told her she was not dismissed for being a lesbian but rather because the relationship was published in the obituary, which ran Feb. 26 in The Columbus Dispatch.

Hale's attorney, Thomas Tootle, late last week filed a grievance on her behalf with the Central Ohio Association of Catholic Educators, the union that represents teachers within the Diocese of Columbus.

"This is basically her colleagues, the union," Tootle said Monday, April 29.

A committee of the COAC, he added, will meet to decide if Hale's firing violates her contract and if they wish to "throw their resources and weight behind Carla."

Tootle also said he would file a formal complaint about the action of the diocese with the Columbus' Community Relations Commission.

According to the attorney, while a religious organization's "ministerial" employees can be exempted from city laws against discrimination because of sexual orientation, that does not apply to people whose employment is not related to faith-based aspects of the organization.

"The facts of our case, I think, are very compelling to suggest that there would be no exception here," Tootle said.

The contract Hale signed does not require her to "behave as if she were a practicing Catholic," the lawyer said.

"I think the church faces an uphill battle here," Tootle added.

In an interview with Outlook, Hale was quoted as saying she hoped gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens would be helped by what has happened to her and that "the negative message of her firing has been outweighed many times over by the positive outpouring that followed," according to a story by the magazine's editor, Bob Vitale.

"I'm hoping that, possibly for the first time in many of their lives, they actually see the love and support that's being generated," Hale said. "It's one of those subjects that can't ever be discussed (in Catholic schools), but I'm hoping now they can actually see what this whole situation has created, that there is a lot more support out there than they could have even imagined."

"Hopefully, that's what stays and that's what endures and continues on from this whole situation."

About a dozen Watterson students protested outside the downtown offices of the Diocese of Columbus on Friday, April 26. School was out that day. A protest planned outside the school fizzled out on a rainy Sunday, April 28.

The case also has drawn national attention. Hale reportedly was scheduled to be interviewed by MSNBC April 29, and a story about the firing on the news-aggregation site Buzzfeed has garnered nearly 700,000 views and 21,000 Facebook shares. Twitter users have employed the hashtag "#halestorm" in thousands of posts supporting the teacher.

International "hacktivist" group Anonymous also apparently has thrown its hat into the ring, with a video posted last week to YouTube that threatens to release sensitive information about diocese administrators if Hale is not rehired.

Meanwhile, two vastly different online petitions relating to Hale's firing were drawing equally different results.

A petition seeking her reinstatement launched at change.org by a Watterson student had gathered nearly 97,000 signatures as of April 29. Those who signed are from all over the country and around the world.

Another one urges Bishop Frederick Campbell to "stand up for religious liberty and the gospel of Jesus Christ."

"This petition encourages Bishop Campbell to teach the holy truths of our church's 'Magisterium' without compromise and without apology," the change.org page states. "The greatest act of love our church can perform for Carla Hale and the students at Bishop Watterson High School is to say 'no' to Satan's deceit."

As of April 29, 389 people had signed that petition.

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