St. Mary band director fired for gay wedding plans

(UPDATED WITH FULL STORY)
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

Comments

SamAdams

John, it's a little off topic, but in direct response to your closing above:

You don't NEED a church to go "home." Your religious beliefs, and your relationship with your god, are as personal as it gets. You don't need validation, nor do you need some sort of a conduit to be heard. You don't need a schedule to pray, and you obviously don't need somebody to tell you what or how to think.

In fact, the ONLY thing the church can offer is companionship with like minds. And I'm pretty sure you can find that in a good variety of other settings in which you will, sooner or later, feel at "home."

Peace...

thinkagain

What about the rights of the parents who pay tuition, to have their children educated in accordance with the mandates of the Catholic religion?

He’ll have no problem getting a job in the public school system, where indoctrinating confused younglings into the homosexual lifestyle is a liberal mandate.

Instead of following Jesus’s teaching on marriage in Matthew 19:4-5, he chose to defy Him.

Like all sin, the homosexual lifestyle is a choice made from free will. A deviation from Gods plan for His children.

brainerd_man

I've thought again (pardon the pun), and if God had this "plan," then God would not have created people with same-sex attraction in the first place.

Something to look forward to is that people with your beliefs are becoming fewer and fewer. And that's a good thing for humanity.

Kingsin

You're right- people of the Christian faith are becoming fewer- and the world is becoming worse for it. You can have your opinion concerning God's "plan"- but He isn't concerned with your opinion- nor anyone else's for that matter. He isn't wringing His hands together in anguish worrying that people don't like Him or agree with Him- it's quite the contrary. Jesus Himself said that He did not come to bring peace to the earth- but rather division between people (Luke 12:51). Separation between believer and unbeliever is a theological thread which winds it's way through both the Old and New Testament- God isn't saving everyone, though He offers that opportunity freely to all. What is occurring with this issue and so many others we face in our culture- is that God is sifting individuals into one camp or the other- saved and unsaved, lost and found, sheep or goats, good fish or bad fish, wheat or tares- and you as an individual are in one of those camps. So you and the others on this thread go ahead and throw your "highly educated arguments and opinions" at God as much as you will- you're only picking your side. As far as your statement that mankind would be better off without the influence of Christians upon the world- you may just get your wish if we are truly in the last days as I and many other Christians believe- and you're going to inherit hell on earth when that happens. The Bible speaks of the time in the last days when people would be calling evil things good, and good things evil- when they would no longer listen to Christian principles, and would openly mock God's people- well I'd say we're there- so hold on tight for what comes next.

Katelih-Trailer...

Your comment hit me like a ton of bricks..Thanks,I think.

Kingsin

Katelih, my response to some of the posters here was to show that God isn't by any means a patsy. He wishes for all to be saved- it's just that He knows the majority (and yes it is a majority)- will refuse His invitation. It speaks in Scripture of God throwing a large banquet- but yet those He invited refused to come to it- they basically stood Him up. The world is invited to this banquet- but yet they refuse to come. By your response it sounds to me that you at least have a heart that is willing to listen, and you may be a Christian already-I don't know that- so I will assume that you may not be sure. My advice is to go to a Church and talk to a pastor, or buy some Christian books, or speak to a Christian friend, and begin to read the Bible daily if you aren't already- and then ask God to put you onto the right path- the rest will all open up to you. This is basically how I became a Christian nearly 20 years ago- I went from understanding very little- to now teaching the Bible at my Church weekly. God has enriched my life, and He will do the same for all who will just ask... take care

brainerd_man

No, I don't think we are in our last days. The sun won't die for another few billion years. So besides your brand of "last-days" Christianity that I don't accept, I also believe in science.

Kingsin

"Immediately after the distress of those days "'the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken..." Matt. 24:29

brainerd_man

Sounds like a solar eclipse and a lunar eclipse to me.

Babo

Or a Super-volcano eruption or nuclear winter, possible ways to end life on earth as we know it.

Kingsin

If you want my interpretation (and that's all it is)- it's a description of nuclear warfare. The stars cannot literally fall onto the earth, so what was Jesus speaking of? As you look throughout Scripture (Joel, Amos, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, the Apostle John and Peter, etc..) They all seemed to share a combined view of this occurrence. They spoke of a "Day which will burn as an oven", "Of blood and fire mingled with smoke", "Pillars of smoke", "A third of all trees burned up", "stars falling to the earth" (nuclear warheads?). In the book of Zechariah it speaks of a "plague" which will cause a persons eyes, tongue, and flesh to consume away from their bones- before their bones can even hit the ground!- I ask, what can do that? Even chemical agents no matter how nasty don't work that fast- it has to be IMO a description of nuclear holocaust. If you want all the verses I can list them for you.

Babo

I agree with you, though I did find a piece on 60 Minutes last week about Super Volcanos very interesting. The description by scientists of this type of event also resembles scripture reports of the end times. Also a large Meteor strike.

brainerd_man

I'm pretty sure that charlatan Harold Camping who predicted the Earth would end in 2011 just died. Do you have a prediction for the end date or are you keeping quiet about it? lol!

brainerd_man

I believe the parable of the sheep and the goats has to do with feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned. Those are supposedly the direct words of Jesus for reaching heaven, no? If you can interpret anything in that parable relating to homosexuality, let me know.

Kingsin

And this is the reason my statement was kind of tough on you Mr. Brainerd- you simply don't understand the Bible, but yet you feel free to disparage it. The parable of the sheep and goats is called "the Judgment of the Nations"- and is one of five specific judgments spoken of in Scripture which I don't have the space to go into. This judgment occurs immediately upon Christ's return and determines which nations will be allowed to enter into His Theocratic Kingdom upon this earth- Christians pray it every time they say "The Lord's Prayer"- "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth..." The predicating factor in this Judgment as to whether entrance will be allowed to a nation or people group- is how they treated the Jews. How God judges a nation in it's entirety- I leave to Him- But I can assure you there won't be a Nazi sympathizer, Russian Atheist, Gaza Terrorist, or PLO- Israel hating- faction member remaining when its all over. I implore you to study these issues much deeper on your own- I used to not believe- but the more you study the claims of the Bible and how exactly the world has shaped itself to its pages (think of the Jews here) the more I will boldly and unfearfully proclaim it.

sugar

Amazing, there are people who say they do understand. What I remember is love everyone and treat them as you would want to be treated. I also remember that NO ONE knows when the end will come, not even Jesus.

whattheBucks

Yes..love the sinner, hate the sin. "Even Jesus don't know when the end will come ?" Boy you're in for a rude awakening

Kingsin

"But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 1 Thessalonians 5:4-6

Believers are "not in darkness" nor will that day "surprise them as a thief" - we might not know the EXACT day, but the Bible is clear to teach that the Christian will absolutely know that it is near.

brainerd_man

It sounds like you have your own interpretation of this. What I understand this to be is exactly what Jesus said: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, etc. Nothing more, nothing less. I am well enough versed in the Bible to know that the Bible is interpreted in different ways. BTW, what is your belief about Jesus' command to "Eat my body." and "Drink my blood." given at the Last Supper?

brainerd_man

The meaning behind the parable of the sheep and the goats is one reason that the Catholic Church has a strong social justice network, because the Church does take this command of Jesus literally. When I was a junior at St. Mary's Central Catholic, there was a class called Christian Service. Some of the students in the class chose to visit the veterans at the Ohio Veterans Home.

brainerd_man

And I certainly don't accept your interpretation that the "Judgment of the Nations" is based on how people treat only the Jews. It is how an individual treats **everyone** that he/she comes into contact with.

If you remember, Jesus wasn't too fond of self-righteous Jews. He "dressed them down" on quite a few occasions.

justsaying..

Lol gods people! What god? Whose god? Your god? So cain killed abel right? Who did seth and him get hitched to? Sounds like incest to me. Dont even get me started on the church scandels. I dont go out of my way to mock gods people, but its 2014. put that old book down for a minute and think for yourself.

sugar

I pay and I want Mr. Panetta there.

starryeyes83

There is no story here, he signed a contract to be employed at will, knew he was violating said contract, he expected to be fired if he announced/accepted proposal.

Any employer has the right to terminate if a contract is violated. Was this in the paper for publicity stunt or attention getter or what?

Why is this news?

Tsu Dho Nimh

Excellent point. This young man understands the teaching of the Catholic church and approached them. He doesn't seem to be taking issue with the school's decision.

brainerd_man

"Why is this news?" It is news because it involves a school in Sandusky and because gay rights have been in the news a lot lately.

Or have you just not been paying attention?

starryeyes83

Yep, I've paid attention. Fact is the gentleman broke the contract he WILLFULLY signed and expected to be fired.

Again, there is no news story here.

And woowee, look at all the hits for the site :)

DickTracey

Where is the news? A man got fired for getting engaged!!

Did you get fired for getting engaged ?

Do you know ANYONE that ever got fired when they got
engaged?

Did you get fired when you got divorced? Or married?

Why doesn't the Catholic church fire their pedophile priests as quickly as they fired this innocent man?

whattheBucks

Sugar/dick
Sugar, just cause you pay doesn't mean you can change what's right and wrong according to the church.
Dick,though Brian is a good person, he's not innocent, he signed a contract knowing he wasn't being truthful

sugar

And YOU so not have the authority to decide what is right or wrong either. I will stand before God and let him sort it out. And yes I so have a day, I pay tuition, this is a private school supported by my money.

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