NEW YORK – While a teacher fired due to a same-sex relationship has charged that her termination was discriminatory, the Archdiocese of Denver has defended the move by characterizing that relationship as a violation of an employment contract for teachers in Catholic schools.
Maggie Barton, who said she was raised Catholic, taught technology to grades K-8 at the All Souls Catholic School in the Denver suburb of Englewood for six years before her recent termination.
In a Feb. 3 statement, the archdiocese said it “found it necessary” to conclude the teacher’s employment because the same-sex relationship violated her contract.
“Every Catholic school teacher in the Archdiocese of Denver, as a minister of the Church, signs a contract at the outset of each school year, and in that agreement they pledge to ‘personally [exemplify] the characteristics of Catholic living,’ which includes, ‘refraining from taking any public position or conducting himself or herself in a manner that is contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church’,” the statement said.
“In this case, the school was made aware that one of their teachers is in a same-sex relationship, and after discussing this with the teacher, learned that she intends to persist in violating the standards she previously agreed to uphold,’ the statement continues. “An employee who violates any of the terms of their employment agreement knows from the outset of their work that they can’t remain employees at the school.”
The archdiocese said the fact “that a Catholic school employee experiences same sex attraction in itself is not a cause for termination,” but reiterated that all employees must abide by the contract.
Barton told the local Fox affiliate, Fox 31, that the firing was discriminatory.
“I chose to work in a Catholic school because that’s what I know, that’s what I love, that’s what’s familiar to me and I wanted to give students the same experience that I had,” Barton told the station. “Just because of my sexual orientation, that shouldn’t have to change.”
Crux could not reach Barton for comment.
This isn’t the first time a teacher was fired by a Catholic school for their sexual orientation.
In October 2021, the Diocese of Brooklyn fired Matthew LaBanca, a Catholic music teacher in Queens, after his marriage to another man. The reason the diocese gave was the same as the Archdiocese of Denver in Barton’s case. That he violated a part of his contract that said teachers must “support and exemplify by his/her public conduct Catholic doctrine and morality.”
Like in New York, state discrimination laws in Colorado prevent terminations based on sexual orientation. However, religious institutions are protected to make decisions based on religious beliefs.
The Archdiocese of Denver statement on the decision highlighted the importance that the archdiocesan schools follow the faith to make sure students receive an “authentic and fully Catholic education.” It notes that when it comes to sexual expression, “someone persisting in a lifestyle contrary to these views [conventional love between a man and a woman] will find it difficult to teach them to our students.”
“We recognize the current popular culture and some in our society may not hold the same view as we do, but as Catholic institutions our schools retain their right to ensure that its ministers, which includes our teachers, carry out a faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the teachings of the Catholic Church,” the statement reads.
The archdiocese declined a Crux request for comment, citing the Feb. 3 statement.
A GoFundMe was set up on Barton’s behalf at the beginning of the month, which, as of late on Feb. 6, had raised over $22,000 from 163 donors.
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg