NEW YORK – A Catholic substitute teacher and field hockey coach in Maryland has been fired after school officials discovered his affiliation with a white supremacist group.
The Academy of the Holy Cross, an all-girls school in Kensington, sent out an e-mail to parents last Thursday informing them of the decision, although the termination occurred last October after school officials discovered online postings from the individual. The e-mail was followed by a school wide assembly on Friday where the academy’s president held an open discussion with students about the decision.
Greg Conte had worked as a coach for Holy Cross since 2014 and later began work as a substitute teacher for the college preparatory high school. His other employment, however, was at the National Policy Institute (NPI) and the website Altright.com.
Conte attended the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, in an official capacity, which was organized in part by NPI in opposition to the removal of a Confederate monument honoring Robert E. Lee. The rally, which was driven by racist and nationalist sentiments, turned deadly when a man plowed his car into a crowd of protesters and killed 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was demonstrating against the white nationalists and neo-Nazis.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) condemned the events of Charlottesville as “abhorrent acts of hatred” and soon thereafter announced the formation of a new ad hoc committee against racism in response to the events.
While Holy Cross maintained that Conte “was focused on maintaining an appropriate persona for our school environment,” and thus did not espouse his political views around students, they argued that his public positions are incompatible with their institutional values.
The National Policy Institute (NPI), a Virginia-based think-tank, is led by Richard Spencer who is well known for his white nationalist views.
According to their website, NPI is “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States and around the world.” In his public speeches, Spencer has publicly denounced the Jewish people and favorably quoted Nazi rhetoric.
Conte, as a part of his role for NPI, was in charge of Spencer’s security detail during the Charlottesville rally.
Students at Holy Cross found out about Conte’s affiliation with NPI via social media, where he would post under the pseudonym of “Greg Ritter.” Since his firing, Conte has dropped the pseudonym and is posting under his own name, including recent boasts about his firing and that “once the Alt-Right takes over IRL [in real life], we cannot be stopped!”
“I don’t regret it,” Conte said in an interview with WTTG, a local D.C.-based Fox news station.
“I obviously liked working at the school, and I miss everybody, but I understand the political situation and I expected them to act as they did,” he added.
According to Holy Cross, the institution is devoted “to developing women of courage, compassion, and scholarship who responsibly embrace the social, spiritual, and intellectual challenges of the world.”
In an earlier statement, Kathleen Prebble, the president of Holy Cross, said the decision to fire Conte was not politically motivated, but rather about the principles he espoused which are in direct conflict with their mission.
“This is not about being conservative versus liberal. This is not about right-wing politics versus left-wing politics,” said Prebble. “It is a movement that embraces implicit or explicit racism. It’s about extremism and hate, and that’s not who we are.”
In an interview with Crux, director of communications for Holy Cross, Danielle Ballantine, said there had been a “really positive” response from the school community following the public announcement of Conte’s termination.
“It’s in our mission statement that as a Christ-centered community, we value diversity,” said Ballantine.
The Sisters of the Holy Cross founded the academy in 1868, and today it has an enrollment of almost 500 students.