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

sugar

She should be fired for lying to the community, she told us it was the Diocese that recommended the firing, but we see here that the Diocese says it was local. She represents the school, lying is a SIN. lol

sugar

Dorian and Hard Truth, are you joking? Your homophobia is showing. I say lets fire everyone for their acts against Church doctrine and throw out all the students who sin too. You'll be donating to the empty building. I believe this is SMCC's last mistake, there are very few left anymore that can support the bigotry and the "if your daddy can write a big check" mentality that exists there. Have you not been reading the comments? And most of you have no access to the FB I do that show you are in the minority.

whattheBucks

Kudos to all. Just a few points
Kudos to st Marys for having to do what they did , by removing someone who was not following the rules / beliefs of the catholic church. NOW you need to be consistent and remove ALL the people who are "employeed" by you who are gay...you can't pick and choose who stays and goes. Please don't say its OK to be in a gay relationship as long as they don't get "married"..
Again kudos for making the correct decision even though its not the popular decision.
Kudos to Brian for making a decision in what he believes in ( I personally don't agree with his lifestyle but who am I ) and for handling it and dealing with it with class. If Brian and the school were both following the "rules" then Brian, you should have never even applied for that job, and st. Marys you should have never hired him. It seems harder cause he is such a good guy according to a lot of people. If everything was followed from the beginning we wouldn't be having this issue today.

sugar

Matt Westerhold, Alyssa Widman, has the board made a comment? Where are they??? Have you attempted to reach them? They have dome culpability here!

mikesee

Hope he went to church today to confess his sins!

sugar

Kinda water under the bridge now isn't it Bucks? An injustice has been done. Again, in their mission statement they profess to aid social justice. Hypocritical at best.

whattheBucks

Sugar,instead of looking at it as water under the bridge, let's look at it as a bridge over troubled water.. If this is st marys stance, then they need to finish what they started and get rid of the others who are gay or living the lifestyles they don't approve, and if they don't finish this, then yes hypocrites across the board

sugar

Agrees

sugar

mikesee did you?

mikesee

Every Sunday.

acjp

I have never read so many nasty and unkind remarks, and I suppose you all call yourself Christian. Did any of you see or read Brian Panetta letter?

starryeyes83

Personally , I do not call myself Christian. Want to see where the worst hypocrites are? Open the door to any church.

That said, this is about a contract Mr. Panetta signed at will. He can't have it both ways. Unless this was done purely for the exposure (no pun intended) , which I suspect it was.

SGunther77

Here's the thing: this is a free country, which has always been a founding principle of the United States. No one has to like the stance the Catholic church takes on same-sex marriage; it simply is what it is. If one is a Catholic and can't reconcile that stance, then that person should reconsider an affiliation with that particular church. Though, truly, I think this "problem" can be alleviated much more effectively based on our country's constitution: We have--or are supposed to have--separation of church and state, yes? So, no more religion-based schools that give students the rights to the same graduation priviledges as secular students. Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying abolish religion based education--but, perhaps, those classes could simply be an off-shoot of the regular services of each individual church and not a school onto themselves. Moreover, if people are having trouble with the semantics of the word "marriage," because it's brought up in their religious book, then I do believe that those people and their religions should have the rights to their word. So how about this: all "partnership unions" (maybe we could call them that instead of marriage) are subject to purchasing a license and being presided over by a proper official, and, of course, subject to the penalties the IRS assigns one for being "married." These couples would get to enjoy all the same rights under government law as all current "married" people, but they wouldn't use the word "married" unless their particular church sanctioned it. That, then, would be up to each individual church--whether to sanction any couple as "married." This then, separates church from state. I mean, c'mon, it just makes sense. I am "strait," "married," but not at all religious, so how am I "married" more than a same-sex religious couple who can't be legally married in this state? Seems to me it's a game of legal/government semantics that we don't need to play. All legal "partnership unions" should be thus, and if those couples would like to add a "married" badge to that through their particular religion then so be it. Is that so difficult?

cody6202000

The problem with that (and, believe me, I was 100% in your corner for the longest time, up until probably the last 12-18 months) is that it then becomes another semantics game where people have to then sorta explain exactly what the terms mean. It's why the whole idea of civil unions never really got off the ground: a number of people in positions of authority didn't understand that CUs and marriages were trying to "be" the same, but those in CUs or domestic partnerships were getting shafted in times of emergency.

(Or, also, simply when discussing things with friends and neighbors, some people were having trouble making the link between the two: that's why the renewed push was for the entire equality concept, since we, as a culture sort of have an "idealized" concept of marriage, and a more "sterile" idea of CUs and DPs.)

sugar

The issue is consistency, if you're going to fire someone for sins, be sure to not discriminate on the sin. Second, as parents we are the school, we are the Church and we do feel this is an injustice, we want it fixed, our children want and need his leadership and love.

Dcfred20036

Open letter to Mr Kustec, if you are still at Perkins: please help Mr Panetta find a Job in your music program. I remember the glorious days of band when you led the Panther band and I sensed in Brian that same energy, passion for music and leadership. St Mary's loss can be your gain. Brian is special, don't pass on this opportunity. Fred, class '82.

Georgia on my mind

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Libel and defamation.

sugar

I was told by a Priest this past fall, who is no longer there, that they no longer have any say in what goes on there. Me. Curtis was recommended by Father Steinbauer for the position. Quite a pickle.

Georgia on my mind

I find it quite unsettling that my prior comments have been removed. Unlike other comments, names were never mentioned. Yes, positions were.
For anyone commenting, please consider holding these people accountable for this embarrasing mess. Less than an hour ago, my wife received a phone call of what had taken place after school today. Thank you, Mrs. Curtis. Continue to make us proud to have you as Sandusky Central Catholic School's president. As of today, any financial support from our family has come to an end.

sugar

Georgia, you know it was the lawyers who sit on the board that probably did this. I think SMCC will rue the day they did this.

justmy2centsoh

Was the board involved in this? Who is on the current board? Perhaps a comment from the board would be appropriate?! Will terminations/resignations be forthcoming for other staff who aren't following the code of conduct? Not wishing that on anyone but the school has put this into motion and now have an obligation to be consistent and effective in following the employment contract otherwise would this be selective discrimination?

sugar

My question too.

WaterStreetCooncat

If homosexuality is wrong, why did God, (who is perfect) create it? And for those who say "It's a personal choice", isn't it God who created that person's personal choice?

SMCC_Panther

God didn't create homosexuality... It is a personal choice, yes God is perfect, he did create us. But he gave us free will. Indicating that it is your choice. God simply created us, he doesn't create our personal choices.

TheScientist

Is it your choice to be "straight?" Is that a choice you make? To only be attracted to members of the opposite sex?

God DID create free will. Every person, gay or straight, has the choice to ACT upon their sexual attractions.

Kingsin

What is being missed here is the Sin equation. It is through the fallen and sinful nature of man which is bent in rebellion against God that all sinful activities manifest themselves. Sin, at it's essence, is just a "twisting" of God's perfect will. When it comes to our sexual nature, it was God's perfect will that a man should come together with a woman for personal fulfillment and enjoyment, bonding of the relationship, and for procreation. Though homosexuality may meet certain of these physical needs- it ultimately ends in the death of a species as procreation is not possible. Homosexuality therefore is a sin- a "twisting" of what God had designed and also declared to be "good". I have to mention also that there are no greater or lesser sins- all sin places one outside of God's perfect will- thus alienating us from Him. This is the entire reason Christ had to come- He was the only one who ever lived a perfect and sinless life (because He was both God and man)- The Crucifixion of a totally innocent man in the place of all who were not innocent- thus fulfilling God's demands for justice against mankind for fouling up His whole creation.

SMCC_Panther

Yes Mr. Panetta will be greatly missed, but in the beginning he did sign a contract that he will follow the churches teachings. He broke the contract and therefore he has gotten his punishment. He should not have signed the contract that he didn't have the intention of upholding. I know that many of the students were crushed by this news, but a contract is a contract. Don't blame the school for what has happened, the school had no choice. Mrs. Melody Curtis was doing her job.

John Harville

Mrs. Melody Curtis and others have stated they knew of his relationship with David. Did it only become an issue when he announced his attention to marry in 2015?
Are you following the Church's teachings?
More importantly, are you following Christ's teachings. As one who has taught Confirmation classes, I would have to encourage you to head out to Reconciliation - if you can be truly contrite for the sin of judging harshly and passing a judgment for which you have no authority.
Are you and your parents upholding your contract to be a student in Sandusky Catholic Schools?

PagingSanity

The bottom line is that Brian was ousted because he violated their contract. The only questions that matter in my opinion are: Are any other faculty/staff members ALSO violating their contract in some way, shape, or form? If so, are they also being pushed out of their jobs or is Brian being singled out due of his homosexuality?

John Harville

The bottom line will be whether the contract is legal on its face. Can a Catholic school district which accepts state and federal funding for some of its programs, require such language?

Pages