Jeff Bernthal, KTVI, Reporting
A gay teacher is fired from a Catholic school after planning to marry his partner.
Al Fischer was planning on marrying his partner of nearly 20 years during a quiet ceremony in New York. Charlie Robin says the couple is not interested in making a political statement. They were marrying to show each other their commitment.
What they did not expect to happen was Fischer losing his job. He was a music teacher for St. Ann Catholic School. Robin says his partner lost his job after sharing news about the marriage with other workers.
Robin says an employee of the Archdiocese heard the news. Each employee of Catholic schools signs a witness statement agreeing not to take a public position contrary to the Catholic Church and to demonstrate a public life consistent with Catholic teachings.
The Catholic Church does not support gay marriage or sex between two men or two women.
Robin admits the firing is legal but is still frustrated.
‘It`s as if we can have our own relationship as long as we don`t talk about,’ said Robin.
He says Fischer never hid his relationship and believes the students will be losing out on a good teacher.
‘He is upset because all he wants to do is teach those kids,’ said Robin.
Here is a statement sent by he Archdiocese of St Louis saying it, ‘Fully supports the action taken at St Ann Parish School as it is in full compliance with the Christian Witness Statement signed by every educator in the Catholic school system.’
Here is the letter Fischer sent to the parents of students after he learned of his firing:
Hi there, friends. I know you have all heard about my joyful news, and my sad news. The joyful news is that after 20 years together, my partner Charlie and I are getting officially married in New York City… and seeing a Broadway show! The sad news is that I can’t be your music teacher anymore. I know many of you are chomping at the bit to do something, to make some sort of difference in this, and are looking for a way to do it. I have some concrete requests and suggestions. The first is that you read this email a time or two. I am being careful with every single word, and really want to get my point across.
Many of your kids have been working with “Top 20? lingo and paradigms. In the Top 20 world they talk about “tornadoes”. This is a self-feeding growing circle of rage that can happen when people get in the cycle of expressing anger to each other and dwelling in frustration, instead of expressing themselves to the people who can make a difference. I get the love and support behind your anger and this email circle that’s been spreading, and I invite you instead to take positive action by writing two people who may have some power to make a change in Catholic education policy in the future. Letters may be addressed to Mr. George Henry (Superintendent of Catholic Schools) and Msgr. John Unger (Deputy Superintendent for Catechesis and Evangelization). Their addresses are the same: 4445 Lindell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108.
Secondly, I ask that you don’t “go public” or “take it national”. I am in action crafting my response to this injustice, and I am going to be doing it through my work and position as Artistic Director of the Gateway Men’s Chorus, St. Louis’ gay men’s chorus. (Our next concert is March 31! Tickets and info at gmcstl.org!) I have a team of pros taking a look at this issue and crafting how we can best shine a light on this and work to make a difference. I ask that you let me make the choice of how and when I respond to this, rather than lashing out to the media and taking that choice from me.
I think the word has been well spread that this is not the fault of St. Ann School or it’s leadership, and I want to emphasize that I get that too. Both Mary Jo and Fr. Bill are still there for me in a big way. I ask that you help them keep their focus on the things that are important: the business of running a school, supporting your kids, and (sadly) finding a music teacher. Please let the reputation of your school remain strong. Please watch what you say to outsiders and in public, which is exactly what I wish I had done a touch more of.
Another thing that I think could make a huge difference is for you to talk to your children about what happened. Social justice is an area of vital importance to the Catholic Church, and they do great work in this area. A family conversation about whether or not justice was served here could be a great thing. I do not want the lesson from this for the kids to be, “Keep your mouth shut, hide who you are or what you think if it will get you in trouble”. In a just world, uncomfortable truths need to be stated. Unpopular stands need to be taken. Just look at Martin Luther King. Just look at Jesus.
I think the thing I am most sad about is that I didn’t get to say goodbye to your kids. Please tell your children that I love them and will miss them. Please tell them to sing out in Mass. Please tell them that this Friday no one can talk during GO CRUSADERS. I wrote that song, and I wrote it for them. I want them to be proud of who they are and where they are: a loving community and a great school.
And a few more random requests:
Give your new music teacher a chance. They just want to do a good job.
Ask your kids to make them a welcome card on his or her first day. First days are scary.
Just because they do it differently from me, it doesn’t mean it’s worse.
If you hear of any work for a musician or music teacher, let me know.
I do not intend to be a stranger.
Peace and much love,