Marian to review rules after pregnant gay teacher fired

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The group of Catholic nuns heading Marian High School said it plans to review policies and procedures in the wake of the outcry over a gay teacher's alleged firing after she announced her pregnancy.

Mary Jane Herb, president of the Monroe-based Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, in a letter to supporters this week referred to "the recent employment matter" and "a complexity of issues" facing the Catholic church and its schools. She did not specifically name Barbara Webb, the teacher who was terminated last month from the private, all-girls Bloomfield Hills school.

"Consequently, we need to have ongoing education and a new lens through which to view issues and situations that are emerging," Herb wrote in the letter dated Monday. "Pope Francis has brought a sense of hope to our lives and encourages us to look at our Church with new eyes. No, it is not likely that doctrine will change, however the Pope emphasizes that the values of mercy, inclusion and compassion need to be included in our response to complex situations."

Herb wrote that the IHM Leadership Council would work with the school's executive committee to "re-examine policies and procedures in light of Catholic identity" and the group's values.

The letter was posted Tuesday on a Facebook page supporting Webb, who taught advanced placement and honors chemistry for nine years and coached winning athletic teams.

Webb — married to a woman — has said that after learning of her pregnancy, Marian administrators asked the teacher either to resign and agree not to disclose the details or be terminated.

"Marian was unwilling to offer me any type of leave and of course they were not willing to grant me the same right that a half dozen other teachers are enjoying this year while starting their families," she wrote on her Facebook page.

At issue was a morality clause in the teacher contract that stipulates teachers of both sexes "will not publicly engage in actions, or endorse actions or beliefs contrary to the teachings and standards of the Roman Catholic faith and morality."

Webb's situation has attracted widespread attention.

A petition on seeking to address Marian policies on LGBT issues had collected about 66,400 signatures as of Wednesday. Meanwhile, a crowdfunding campaign at aiming to start a school-sponsored diversity/inclusivity program as well as train staff has raised nearly $3,300 of a $50,000 goal, according to the website.