A lot of readers know that I’m the head coach of a competitive high school Speech/Forensics Team in Illinois. Even though I’m not in the classroom anymore, I’m still coaching because I get to work with a wonderful group of students and it’s such a worthwhile activity. So this story hits really close to home.
If you visit the website for Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska, this image will greet you on the front page:
Their team has won the State tournament four years in a row. That’s just an incredible run — I’m envious — and a lot of the credit has to go to the coach there, Matthew Eledge, an English teacher at the school.
Or at least he is for the time being. School leaders told him he won’t be coming back in the fall if he ends up marrying his boyfriend.
According to a Change.org petition in his defense started by Kacie Hughes,
In December of 2014, Matt and his partner, Elliot Dougherty, made the decision to get engaged. He went to the administration to let them know, and they told him he would not be invited to teach next year. Furthermore, if he told students, he would be fired immediately.
… After months of contemplation, Mr. Eledge discussed the idea of postponing the wedding so he could come back to Skutt Catholic. He was then informed that he must end his relationship with Elliot.
When Mr. Eledge, or any other teacher, becomes engaged, what they do in their private life is between themselves and God. Not for us to assume or judge. Furthermore, if they fire Mr. Eledge for engaging in a same-sex relationship, they must avoid discrimination. They will need to fire any single teacher who is living with their partner or engaging in sexual activity, any divorced person who has remarried without an annulment, or any married couple using contraceptives.
We believe Mr. Eledge should not be fired because of his sexual orientation. We must take action and demand equality for a great teacher, a successful coach, and an even better human being.
To be fair, the school has every right to fire him since anti-gay bigotry is a part of Catholic doctrine… but that doesn’t mean it’s the step they have to take. Maybe if more Catholic school administrators had the courage to say to Church leaders, “He’s a great teacher, a great coach, a great person, and I refuse to fire him,” you’d start to see some change… eventually.
Instead, what we get is a correction on the reporting:
Deacon Tim McNeil said while the Archdiocese of Omaha and its affiliated schools never comment on private personnel issues, Eledge wasn’t fired, but his contract simply will not be renewed.
Ah. I see. That makes things much better.
I reached out to the school’s principal, Eledge, and Hughes yesterday afternoon for comment but none of them responded in time for this post.
Incidentally, this story continues a trend of Catholic schools firing excellent teachers for the crime of being gay and married. And just about every time, large numbers of students publicly opposed their administration’s decisions, filling in the moral gaps where the adults failed.
It’s wonderful to see the worst parts of Catholic teaching not rubbing off on them; let’s hope they can stand with their teacher. And, you know, make those administrators squirm as they awkwardly defend their faith-based prejudice.