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



And everyone else signing that contract does so too, unless we now have saints working there.


Many people don't have formal engagements or weddings. Also I wasn't employed by a Catholic Church and required to sign a contract. He was. If you're that angry go take it up with the Church.

What's next? collections to help pay for their wedding?


I saw similar to this happen in a school system in NE Ohio few years ago. It was the school principal that was released from his job. The students supported him and they staged a walkout at the school. All the major news outlets were covering it and just a terrible PR for the school district.

The students returned the next day to school BUT the real twist was two graduating seniors ran in the fall for school board and they both won ousting two long time Board members who had voted to end the principal's contract. The principal was later rehired in the school district and the real twist.....the superintendent who had recommended the principal's non renewal was let go by the new school board at the end of the year.


That's alright- God's people have been getting bad PR since the Cross


Spare me your victim mentality and start practicing the Golden Rule. You know, treat others as you would like to be treated. That rule is common to many religions.


If someone was able to run for school board in an election, the school was obviously a PUBLIC school, not a Catholic private school.

You are badly confused if you believe the Christian community considers this story to be bad "PR".


Good thing they got rid of him, because we all know that every single one of the other faculty members there never broke any of the 10 commandments and we just can't have some homosexual messing that perfect track record up for them. As a matter of fact, I guarantee that they were all virgins until their life-long marriages began and that they have never even had so much as an impure thought, ever! This'll also teach their students a good lesson too, so hopefully the ~10% of them that are gay will know that they better stay in the closet where they belong and pray to be fixed.


Ouch! And well said.

Years ago, a good friend of mine who happens to be gay AND Catholic (at least he was still Catholic when I knew him), told me how he eventually reconciled his homosexuality with the condemnation of his faith. He told me that, if God created all of us, then God had created him, too. And he said if he prayed to be "fixed" or "changed," that would be an acknowledgement that God had somehow made errors when creating him. His belief in the perfection of his God gave him faith that he WASN'T a mistake, and that he was just as valuable to God as is any other man or woman.

Me? As far as I'm concerned, if you don't hurt anybody else, why is it any of my business who you sleep with? And the man I'm speaking of here was one of the kindest, most generous, and overwhelmingly decent human beings I've ever known. I hope he eventually found a church that would recognize he actually lived a far more Christian life than most! I sincerely wish the same for Mr. Panetta.


Re: "if you don't hurt anybody else, why is it any of my business who you sleep with?"

Our lesbian neighbors invited us over for dinner a couple weeks ago. We had a nice time.

I tend to repeat the old Seinfeld joke to my spouse:

As long as they don't try to recruit us for their 'team,' I'm OK with 'em. :)


My dad once told me "I love gay men, the more of them there are, the less competition there is for me!" I always thought that was a great stance haha


He sounds like he was a brilliant man, as well as being a Christian (:


Well said PaginingSanity.


Reads like Mr. Panetta chose his sexuality over his religion and his employment.

He must now succumb to the consequences of his actions.

IMO, in a 'free society,' he has the right to his opinion and lifestyle and the Church has theirs.

In the meantime, he may want to be expedient and pick a new 'church home' and not wait for the RCC to change their positions any time soon.

From my understanding: In practice, the Episcopal Church is similar to Catholicism and is accepting of homosexual members.

Ya see? When a deity is made in mankind's image much is possible.


The church can teach that gay is evil to full extent of the first amendment (freedom of religion, speech, etc.)

The moment a homosexual is denied employment from an institution, regardless of what the institution preaches, the first amendment does not protect such discrimination.


Wow. This is getting ridiculous. Didn't the article say he was aware his engagement would make things get complicated? He knew the ramifications of his actions, he still made that choice. He chose love over money, good for him. I don't think he has any right to sue anyone, he was willing to resign, what's the difference? At least this way he gets unemployment, if he had quit, he wouldn't have gotten DlCK! <--- pun intended, pretty funny :-)


I hope that doesn't come across as being anti-gay, I have no issue with gay or lesbian. But there are places where it's excepted in this world, and places where it isn't. Catholic Church is one where it isn't, he knew that his whole life. I wish him the best, there are plenty of public schools out there


I keep seeing people (a person?) saying: "If being gay is natural and not a choice, then neither is being a pedophile, rapist, or murderer." How ridiculous. Being gay, and acting on that sexual attraction doesn't HARM anyone else, as long as the people involved are consenting adults. Being a pedophile, a rapist, or a murderer may be NATURAL to that person, but it HURTS the others involved badly. Being gay is not a crime and doesn't hurt anyone else. I cannot even imagine the internal conflict that practicing gay Catholics experience.

Personally, I'm a practicing Catholic who is pro gay-rights (and an SMCC alum). It is my belief that they are born that way, and God doesn't make mistakes. There are a LOT of amazing and "out" gay and lesbian people who graduated from SMCC. Alas, this doesn't change the fact that Mr. Panetta broke a contract (no matter how much we may disagree with that viewpoint). And as I understand, he took the opportunity to resign. The school doesn't hate him, he knew the consequences, and the administration cannot make exceptions. It's a sad situation for those involved, and saddest for the students who've lost a beloved teacher.

(There have been similar actions in parochial Ohio schools in Columbus with a lesbian teacher, and in Cincinnati, with an unmarried teacher who had a baby. The employers in all of those cases were protected by the wording of the contract, and justified in their firings).


Scientist...practicing catholic and pro gay rights.. Talk about picking and choosing what you want !? Thats what's wrong with society, you included, pick and choose what you want and what makes you happy and comfy, at this point i don't think you're as pro catholic or pro gay rights as much as youre just pro-you.


what's wrong with society is that some people feel they have access to God and heaven moreso then others. Good luck.


The thing is, I agree with you. I'm 100% a hypocrite on the subject. I don't agree with the churches stance on this. It might make me a "bad Catholic," but I am what I am. I know and love too many gays to say my religion's stance on their life is right. My stance is no different than a practicing gay Catholic like Mr. Panetta. I know MANY practicing gay Catholics. We might all be hypocrites, but God loves us anyway and we will be in Heaven with Him someday, because we are good people who do no harm to others.


Scientist- were all hypocrites in something one way or the otherother me included, this was not a stab at you at all, it is that I hate how so many people just pick and choosechoose what nest fits them. Without getting all biblical and such , I hope you do know that it takes more then just being a good person and not doing harm to others to be in heaven.


I don't think this thread needs more religious debate, so I will just agree to disagree. What I will add is that as an afterthought, is that my choice in religion is very similar in my choice of political party. I most identify with the Republican party. But in no way do I agree with every single thing the Republican politicians believe in.
Where does it say that we must agree with EVERYSINGLETHING that our chosen religion or political party says, or else we are a bad "entitled" person?


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal information.

John Harville

THE CHURCH burned people at the stake for - SIN OF SINS - reading the BIBLE!!!!!

Maybe now we know why.


John, Remember it's 2014. I sure am curious to know why this bothers you so much.
Kudos to the newly engaged!


Way to go St. Mary's, there is no other choice but to terminate. What are we teaching the kids? If you dont like a rule or agreement then just disregard them. I am excited to get a director who will keep their personal life seperate from work. I am not a alumni, but will start donating this year.


Then you'd probably hope never to see any teacher/instructor/board member with their spouse/partner at any school functions/sports events/awards ceremonies, or is that one of those things that applies to we LGBT, but not to hetero persons?


I fully support SMCC, you can't have an employee going against what your school is trying to teach....


When I called the school last Wednesday to protest this I was told that the diocese forced them to to this and that everyone, including administrators, was upset over this. Since, I have learned that the diocese had nothing to do with this, and it was a local desicion. With this kind of leadership the school will shrink its way to extinction.


Fred... " the gay thing aside"??? That's what this whole thing is about.
Fire someone for doing her job ? She should be fired if she was the one who hired himhim...which she wasnt