The same day he applied for a marriage license with his same-sex partner, foreign language teacher Michael Griffin was fired by the administration at Holy Ghost Preparatory School, in Bensalem. A graduate of Holy Ghost himself, he had taught at the Bucks County school for twelve years. Griffin said he emailed the principal, Jeffrey Danilak, to inform him that he might be late to an in-service day on Friday, as he was applying for a marriage license in New Jersey. Following the in-service, Griffin was asked to meet with the school principal and President, Father James McCloskey.
At the meeting, Father McCloskey said to Griffin, “It’s not really a secret here that you’re gay… I assume this is a same sex marriage.” Griffin was then told that if he was to go through with the marriage, he would be terminated.
His partner, Vincent Giannetto, told 6-ABC Action News, “We applied (for a marriage license) this morning and on the same day he’s fired from his job. So it kind of flipped things upside down for us.” Griffin said that he did not believe he would be fired for getting married.
Bensalem resident and Treasurer of the PC Alliance, Pennsylvania College of Technology’s LGBTQ group, John Fox, said he was “surprised” by the school’s decision. “Bensalem is not known for these kinds of actions. It’s an open minded town.”
Anti-LGBT discrimination at Catholic schools in Pennsylvania is unfortunately not new.
In 2011, Chestnut Hill College, located in Northwest Philadelphia, terminated adjunct professor Rev. James St. George upon learning that he was gay. The Catholic institution received a firestorm of criticism from communities and media across the country. The Rev. St. George eventually secured a teaching position at the University of Pennsylvania.
Holy Ghost is a private religious institution, and is exempted from nondiscrimination laws. Even if the Bensalem Township Council, Pennsylvania General Assembly, or the United States Congress adopted legislation to include sexual orientation as a protected class, under the current nondiscrimination laws the school would be untouchable by governmental authorities.
The work to end discrimination against LGBT people in religious institutions must be approached systemically within the faith community itself.
Last month, nearby Central Bucks School District garnered controversy for failing to cover same-sex partners and spouses in their employee health insurance policy. After a series of school board meetings, Central Bucks announced last week that they would move to extend spousal benefits for legally married couples.