Published: Friday, August 31, 2012, 5:28 PM Updated: Friday, August 31, 2012, 5:28 PM
Officials at an East Shore Christian school are claiming they didn’t renew the contract of a teacher who is suing them because she “directly disagreed” with the school’s doctrine opposing homosexual activity.
Covenant Christian Academy leaders make that claim, and insist their doctrine is shielded by the Constitution’s religious freedom protections, in asking U.S. Middle District Judge Christopher C. Conner to dismiss the suit filed by ex-teacher Sharon Wright.
Wright contends she developed a mental health-related disability due to stress placed on her by those affiliated with the school after one of her sons announced on a social media site that he is gay.
Officials of the Susquehanna Township academy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to renew her contract instead of seeking accommodations for her alleged disability so she could continue working as a fifth-grade teacher, she claims.
In reply to her suit, Covenant officials dispute that Wright, had any condition covered by ADA requirements. She was not offered a new teaching contract for the 2010-11 academic term because she openly opposed the school’s doctrine on same-sex relations, Covenant attorney Dean S. Falavolito states in court filings.
That doctrine, according to those filings, is that the school’s community “does believe that the practice of same-sex relations is a sin and that promotion of such a lifestyle is a sin.”
Wright claims that when her son came out online in 2009 he was barred from classes and told he wouldn’t be allowed to return to the school until he “renounced his sin.” He later was assigned a proctor to help him complete his studies.
After receiving repeated unsolicited and critical comments about the situation from people linked to the school, she and her husband openly questioned the school’s position on homosexuality, Wright contends.
She claims her contract wasn’t renewed after she outlined her concerns about her alleged mental health disability and resisted pressure to take a one-year sabbatical.
Covenant officials claim Wright failed to meet the attendance requirements of her contract during the 2009-10 school year.
During the first semester of that term, her son posted a note on Facebook announcing he was gay and “indicated his celebration and promotion of a homosexual lifestyle,” school leaders contend.
Still, they claim no one at the school ever told Wright that she shouldn’t love and support her son.
“Indeed, as was clearly expressed to (Wright) and her husband, any personal and intra-family opinions and feeling/expressions regarding her son’s decision were completely within the purview of her family,” Covenant officials insist. “The only question was whether or not (Wright) would openly deny and/or question CCA’s policy on homosexual behavior.”
School leaders claim they decided that as long as she didn’t openly challenge that policy, her son’s behavior wouldn’t affect the decision on whether to renew her teaching contract. Wright did finally criticize the school’s doctrine in writing, however, they contend.
That triggered the decision not to rehire her, they contend, and her “alleged disability played no part whatsoever” in the decision to end her employment with the academy.
Wright’s suit amounts to a “personal vendetta,” Covenant officials contend, and she is using the court to “indirectly attack” their school’s “constitutionally protected religious doctrine.”
Conner has ordered mediation to try to resolve the dispute. A settlement conference is scheduled for mid-September.
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