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July 13, 2015

Chaput says 'nothing controversial' about dismissal of lesbian teacher

Archbishop supports school's decision in statement

Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput released a statement Monday supporting the dismissal of a lesbian teacher who says she was let go because of her same-sex marriage. 

Margie Winters, who was director of religious and educational outreach at the Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion, did not have her contract renewed, parents of students were informed on Friday. The Philadelphia Daily News reports that Winters has been employed at the school since 2007, and many parents also feel she was let go because of her sexual orientation. 

In his statement, Chaput backed the school's decision, saying that the firing was in line with the church's teachings: 

"Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief. There's nothing complicated or controversial in this. It's a simple matter of honesty. 
I'm very grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the Church. They've shown character and common sense at a moment when both seem to be uncommon."

Winters reportedly disclosed her same-sex marriage with the school in 2007, and the Archdiocese has denied having anything to do with her firing. Main Line Media News reports that the email to parents about her firing cited "life choices" as part of the reasoning for the decision. 

The Facebook group "I Stand With Margie," which has more than 9,000 likes, has started an online funding campaign for Winters to assist in her job loss. It has raised more than $13,000 to date. 

Mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, favored to win the office in a city made up mostly of Democrats, has criticized the decision. Kenney, a Catholic, has ramped up efforts in the wake of the news to push a state law that bars businesses from firing employees because of their sexual orientation. 

Kenney released a statement on Thursday regarding the firing, asking for her to be reinstated: 

"I applaud the parents and community members at Waldron Mercy for their outcry over the dismissal of a clearly beloved, talented educator. Discrimination and hate have no place in the Church's teachings and certainly not in its schools. I urge the school administrators to reinstate Margie Winters." 
Winters said in an interview with NBC Philadelphia that she hoped the pope's upcoming visit would be an opportunity for dialogue on LGBT issues. Chaput said in June that while gay people were welcome to Pope Francis' visit in September, he did not want it to be a place for those promoting LGBT rights could lobby or protest.