St. Mary band director fired for gay wedding plans

Alissa Widman Neese
Jan 11, 2014
Sandusky Central Catholic School forced its band and choir director to resign this week, shortly after officials learned he and his boyfriend recently became engaged to be married.
Brian Panetta, who is in his fifth year of employment, initially received a letter of termination Jan. 3, which stated he was fired for violating the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic Church.

This letter came just hours after Panetta approached the school’s president about his engagement, to discuss if an end-of-the-year resignation would help avoid any conflicts concerning his gay relationship, he said.

On Thursday, however, Panetta met with school administrators, a priest and representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, who offered more information and agreed he could resign instead of having a termination on his record, he said.    

“I’m satisfied with their explanation, and right now I’m just praying for understanding and strength,” Panetta said. “It’s hard for me to walk away, but it’s what’s best for me personally, and I hope my students will understand that.”

Panetta and his fiancé, Nathan David, started dating while attending the University of Dayton five years ago. They plan to wed in July 2015.

Their relationship wasn’t a secret to the Sandusky Central Catholic School community, as David often attended school events and met several students and their families, Panetta said.

“This community has been like a family to me, and I’ve always had nothing but support,” Panetta said. “I never had to hide.”

After David popped the question on Christmas Day, however, Panetta said he knew things could get complicated.

All Sandusky Central Catholic School employees must sign a contract stating they will live a lifestyle according to the Catholic faith, he said.

“I knew if we ever wanted to get married, it would limit my time teaching at the school I love,” Panetta said. “When I met with the diocese, they basically told me my engagement is a public statement of my support for equality for gay marriage, which the Catholic Church does not support.”

Panetta identifies as Catholic and attended Catholic school for grades K-12. He said working at Sandusky Central Catholic School was an ideal first job.

In his four and a half years working there, Panetta grew the school’s band from 18 to about 50 members, and also produced similar numbers for its choir. He oversaw band for grades 5-12 and choir for grades 7-12.

Panetta said he still doesn’t feel his work is done, but he understands why he is no longer permitted to work at the school. After Thursday’s resignation agreement, he said he feels he is stepping down with the school’s support.

He distributed a letter to the school community Friday that announced his resignation and his engagement to David, in which he called himself a “proud and gay Catholic”

“The hardest part was not getting to speak to (my students) about it, so I’m thankful for that opportunity,” Panetta said. “Everyone knows about my lifestyle, and I always thought the best way to handle this was to be upfront, honest and proactive. I just wanted to provide clarity about this situation”

It’s unknown who will take over Panetta’s job, as students resumed classes Thursday after winter break extended three extra days because of bad weather.

After the Register left a message for Sandusky Central Catholic School president Melody Curtis on Wednesday, she responded within minutes with an emailed statement.

“Mr. Panetta is no longer employed at Sandusky Central Catholic School,” the statement said. “We do not discuss personnel situations with the media.”

Two days later, however, she emailed a revised statement, which she also distributed to the school community.

“It is with great sadness that we extend to you that Mr. Brian Panetta has resigned his position today as director and coordinator of music at Sandusky Central Catholic School,” it said. “Although parting ways is never easy, especially in the midst of a school year, we would like to thank Mr. Panetta for his devotion and service to the school, and the gifts and talents he brought to the music program.”

The statement also provided a link to Panetta’s letter, both of which will be available on the Register’s website.

The school hired Curtis as president this past summer after adopting the president-principal administrative model for the first time. She was previously executive director of Monroe Catholic Elementary Schools in Monroe, Mich., and has almost 15 years of experience in Catholic education.

Sally Oberski, director of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, which oversees Catholic schools in Northwest Ohio, said she couldn’t offer any additional comments about the situation when contacted Thursday.

A Catholic school’s decisions involving personnel are “local decisions,” and the diocese’s role is simply to be available for consultation if the school desires it, Oberski said.

“The school has a governing board, a president and a principal, and it’s a local decision,” Oberski said. “There’s nothing more I can tell you than what the local leadership has told you.”

Because Sandusky Central Catholic School is not funded by taxpayer dollars, it is not required to release personnel files or other documents to the Register.

Click here to read letter from school's director

Click here to read letter from Panetta to students

Click here to visit Brian Panetta's website



Sure, but only if one wants to appear desparate and ignorant.


You are unwilling to accept that other people have a right to disagree with you. In other words you have no respect for the rights of other people who differ from you. Second, you have no objective standard moral code. If something benefits you it's good regardless of whether it harms others, and if something doesn't go your way it is bad regardless of whether the community as a whole benefits.

Panther Student

I do not believe that attacking the way my parents and I live in our faith is the right way to go about things such as this, no human being is perfect - so I will respectfully decline from any further conversation with you.


The Bible is a collaboration of books, written by man and inspired by God (Any Theology class will teach this). If the Bible were inspired by God, could man have not twisted it to serve self interests? Catholics slaughtered millions of Christians in the dark ages. The Bible was used to justify slavery, limit the intellect and ability of women, and to justify murder among other notables in the dirty past.

People manipulate the Bible to serve self interests, in this case the discrimination of a homosexual. There are many verses in the Bible that promote love, and others that promote death and injustice. To practice worship and teach faith is one thing. To discriminate is another. It should be illegal to have such wording in a contract, that it could be legal to fire someone for sexual orientation.

A few quotes:

The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals (Christopher Hitchens).

Religion is man-made. Even the men who made it cannot agree on what their prophets or redeemers or gurus actually said or did (Christopher Hitchens).

Name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer (Christopher Hitchens).


Christopher Hitchens is dead.


So is everybody credited with writing parts and pieces of the Bible. Your point...?


The Word lives.


The Word is manipulated by man to serve self-seeking interests of society. It was used to justify slavery and the stoning to death of children. There is more incest in the Old Testament of the Bible than at puppy mills. There is the suppression of women and people of different ethnicity than the "chosen."

The Bible has many inspiring stories and uplifting verses, but it even says the Earth is flat. There is no way that the Bible should be used as a tool to discriminate protected classes of people from employment in a country that should have separation of church and state. St. Mary Central Catholic should be ashamed to call themselves a place of love, because their veins wreak of hypocrisy, hatred and discrimination.


Purely from a legal standpoint, even though the contract Brian signed with the school system most likely did not specifically state he could be fired for being a homosexual or fired for being divorced w/o an annulment or fired for being married to a divorcee who did not have an annulment, etc., I would be very much surprised if Brian didn't know his homosexuality was not considered in keeping with the moral teachings and values of the Catholic Church. As such, I would believe Brian knew the risks but chose to continue with his employment until the time came when a public announcement such as his engagement to his long-time same-sex partner would trigger SMCC to take action. But again, from a legal standpoint, this does warrant further questions:

1. Did any SMCC administration official, including Mrs. Curtis, know of Brian's same-sex relationship prior to the public engagement announcement? If yes, then any/all administration officials should immediately tender their resignation since their knowledge of Brian's personal relationship w/o alerting Diocese officials would mean they were hiding the truth and thus not following the moral teachings and values of the Catholic church.
2. Are there any current administration officials or teachers divorced w/o an annulment, or any current administration officials or teachers married to a person who is previously divorced w/o an annulment? And does any SMCC administration official know of other officials or teacher's with these backgrounds? If yes, same actions should be taken as just mentioned in terms of immediate resignations/firings.
3. Is any current teacher or school administration official in a marriage that was performed by a JOP but not in a religious setting? If yes, does this violate the moral teachings and values of the Catholic church? For that matter, does the Catholic church accept marriages in the Muslim or Hindu or Jewish or Church of Elvis faiths? What exactly does the Catholic church accept as marriage that is in keeping with the moral teachings and values of the Catholic church?

John Harville

3. To be 'acceptable' the marriage must be performed by an ordained priest IN a Roman Catholic Church (not in the garden, not in a grotto at a retreat house, not on a bridge in the park, not by the mayor.
An ordained priest in a Roman Catholic church after six months of preparation and counseling.
Heterosexual couples married BEFORE they become Catholic have their marriages automatically accepted (even if either/both has been surgically sterilized) - and bound by all the 'laws' of the Church.
Catholics married outside the Church may have a public ceremony by a priest in a Roman Catholic Church to recognize the 'renegade' marriage - usually so offspring won't be bastardized in the eyes of the church.
Muslim, etc. marriages only can be 'recognized' for Catholic purposes if the marriage partners join the Church and renounce other faiths.
Catholic Church does not recognize second marriages by divorced members who have not completed the paperwork and paid the large fees to have the Church 'annul' the first marriage and basically state it never happened (which means the children of that 'marriage' were born out of wedlock. Divorced members who remarry are considered adulterers and not allowed to partake of sacraments. (Of course they can go to any other Catholic Church and take the sacraments cuz there's no 'registry')
No Catholic Church or priest I've ever experienced (10 churches, 20 priests, and two years in lay ministry preparation) EVER asked if members/faculty/employees masturbate, 'interrupt', engage in 'alternative' marital intercourse - or take birth control.
Answer some of your questions?

Big Momma

Congratulations to Mr. Panetta on your engagement. Your letter speaks volumes and you will no doubt find a better job soon! I stand with you in marriage equality!

Bottom Line

I wish him luck as well... However, don't teach at a Catholic school with a morals clause in your contract that you KNOW gives them grounds for termination. That simple.

John Harville

I call BULLSHIP. For decades teachers in private and public schools were terminated/resigned upon marriage - as part of contract.
50 years ago when I was in school, pregnant teachers had to go on leave as soon as the pregnancy was "apparent". And pregnant female students had to leave school - but the fathers could continue toward diplomas.
Reason: The sight of a pregnant woman might 'corrupt' the rest of us and give us unneeded knowledge (like we didn't know whence come babies?)


I wonder if there were a gay married couple with kids & they wanted their kids to go to SMCC if the church would turn down their tuition money? I bet not!


J Hartmann, you talk too much and you're a pathetic placater, do you ever take a stand or do you always bend to whichever way the wind blows? If you're not you would be the perfect politician.

J. Hartman

Sugar, if you are trying to bait me, it has worked slightly, because I would love to educate you. If you had any idea of what I do to help make the world a better place, the community a better place, and this city a better place, you just might support my efforts. I won't try to attack you for not coming forth with who you actually are, meaning your real name, but I would encourage you to contact me as I can then explain. If my memory serves me right, I don't recall anyone by the name of sugar coming to any of the block watch meetings, nor do I recall anyone by the name of sugar attending the drug summit in October, nor do I recall anyone by the name of sugar on the last ballet, nor do I recall anyone by the name of sugar helping with any community clean ups, and I most certainly recall anyone by the name of sugar doing a damn thing except maybe in a porno back in the college days. If I am wrong, please correct me with an actual name? There are several things coming down the line in regards to making the community better. Operation: Street Smart will be at 4 of the local schools in the 2nd quarter of 2014. Once the weather gets nice again, SCPC will continue to partner up with the Conestoga program in efforts to improve the city. Sheriff Sigsworth, Chief Ricci, and Chief Orzech all support our efforts and great things are to come. Also, we will be bringing at least one NFL Play 60 camp to the area and possibly a second. So, if your intentions were to dog me, try again! I am also not trying to go on a counter attack as I welcome constructive criticism. However, if you want to play with the boys, do so by showing some effort on your end. I actually encourage you to call me 330-221-3090. Not because I wish to fight or argue with you, but maybe you have a thought or insight that the rest of us may have neglected or over looked? Seriously, I have absolutely no problem with you calling me out, or at least you are trying too, but my philosophy tells me these petty arguments get us no where! Man to man or man to woman I have no clue because you go by the handle name sugar? Not wanting to get involved in a debate with someone who hides behind a screen name, but I do want to get involved with anyone who wants to make our community better! We may not agree, but that's why we have open communications! You might possibly hate me and everything I say and likewise I could feel the same. What I do know and what I fully understand is, we have to work together if we agree or not. I've put in the actions, HAVE YOU? The ball is in your court sugar! S.M.I.L.E.


You're another phony, baloney, name dropping, aren't I wonderful arrogant man. This city id full of them, what a laugh. As our community bleeds jobs and decent people you're out there placating everyone. Grab you pom poms here comes J Hartman, go team go! LMAO. Since you do not know me you're tirade of my supposed non contribution id laughable at best. Keep blowing your horn, it's kinda like the guy that fiddled.


before you know it monkeys and dogs will have the right to marry too. we have to obviously draw the line here somewhere or the liberals will never stop with their carnage.

Stop It

I'm all for monkeys marrying's best friend with hands! What's not to like?


ROTFLMAO. However I do foresee issues if the dog part drools.


Give it a rest, you simpleton.


A monkeydog who picks up his own logs.

Hmmm ... Very Interesting. Save humans a lot of work. LOL.


Our children are losing a friend, a fabulous teacher, who loved them and gave them a love of music.

J. Hartman

Sugar, are you freaking serious? You have the balls to attempt to call me out from the shadows and the very thing I was defending you now support a few comments later and preach? Look man/woman, if you are going to call out and bitch, throw your name in the ring and be a difference! Lash back at me as a defense mechanism is fine! Pick my past apart is fine as well and I will even give you some things you can't find that will blow your little gold fish mind! (however, remember 33) I have tough skin and whether you hurl another grenade at me or not is your choice! If you want to call out, pull up your freaking skirt and do something that is positive! In the meantime, I do support your right to express yourself through free speech. On the other hand again, if you call me out, present yourself and stop hiding behind a tree like the Great Gazo! Am I pissed? You have no idea the bullcrap myself and many, many others put up with and have overcome to make your world a better place and you lack the understanding that people actually are working for your future? So, if I'm that pathetic as you mentioned, I can live with that because I forgive and despite your obvious lack of knowledge of how the world REALLY exists, I will pray for you and continue to do my best to make your life and your loved ones a better place today, tomorrow, and hopefully well into the future! Or maybe you believe our direction to a communist state is for the better? Again, I'm very easy to find, but I would choose your next words wisely as a fake screen name is only hidden to those who don't know where to look! Be a solution, not an instigator!


Blah,blah,blah, you post (talk) too much.


Oh I just caught that I may be a you sure are entertaining, and full of yourself.


And threats too! My, my! you can come and find me if you desire.

J. Hartman

Sugar, sometimes when we get caught in the moment we may type or say some things we may later wish to retract or wish we remained silent. In this situation I wish neither. However, I would like to touch on a few things as I do believe you may not understand or this is a form of enjoyment for you once you do happen to dig underneath ones skin? First, I do believe dialogue is a positive whether we agree or not. You are correct in the fact I have no clue who you are, but I also fully respect your opinion and your right to remain anonymous. Come and find you as you stated? Obviously, since I have no idea who you are, that's something I can't do. In terms of threatening you? I'm not really sure why you came to that conclusion, but I for one can't fight anyone and even if I could I would not. As far as you also believing I called you a communist? I guess I do see why you would take it that way, but I was actually speaking in general about how things are shaping up around us and the general direction of the whole. I merely need to point to cold war Russia as just one example or pre-WWII and Germany. I will end with my usual longer than needed dialogue. Again, I have no clue who you are, but you saying I have arrogance(trust me I have nothing to be arrogant about), basically calling me a fake, a cheerleader, and a name dropper. Some of that may be true, but I am not perfect nor do I wish to be. What I do wish to be is someone who takes a chance, someone who speaks up for the right thing even though it might not be the popular choice. If that involves pom poms and a "Lets Go Team" chant as you stated, so be it. In the long run, I would like to be a person who made a difference in a positive direction on any level even if you or someone else disagrees. Not trying to be anyone's best friend or think I spark fear in anyone's eyes. Most of all, I ask to be respected not through demanding it, but through commanding it by my actions. You also mentioned it was laughable in regards to one of my statements because you do so much in the community. I thank you if that is a true statement and we have possibly worked side by side maybe on a project. Whether we did or didn't isn't an issue, but if you are willing to help in any manner(which I do believe you contribute and I don't question that) I would love to collaborate on a project whether it be something that I'm in direct contact with or possibly the other way around and I help you on a project? I won't end with any smart comments looking to one up you, but I will end in saying we all have great ideas and think we have all have the answer to make the community a better place. As individuals do we have the right answer? Maybe, but I have come to learn one has to realize they are not the best at everything and there are certain things others might be better qualified to do. I have also come to learn the individual can not succeed without the support of the whole and I have also come to learn one must be willing to compromise and work as a whole in order to have success. Therefore, I am more than willing and welcome the opportunity to work with you even if we disagree as long as the same goal is there and can be achieved! Be safe and enjoy the rest of your week!

John Harville

Is this the same parish/diocese that 'excused' its priest for having a sexual relationship with a recent widow the priest was counseling?

Is this the same Church that passed along pedophile priests for decades?

Is the same Church with the Pope who said the Church should not condemn homosexuals?

John Harville

Is SMCC going to expel its LGBTQ students? (and don't tell me they don't have them)
Is SMCC going to expel its fornicating students/athletes?
And to think this Runaway Catholic was thinking of 'coming home'