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



Do you wake up every morning and "decide" that you're going to be heterosexual? I don't think so - it's just your in your biological makeup. It's the same way with homosexuals.

I also believe that pedophiles and the like are "made" that way - there's something in their wiring that causes them to have those urges - but those acts are illegal and hopefully the penalties of breaking the law are a deterrent. There is nothing illegal about living as a homosexual.

Peninsula Pundit

To grandma's girl.

So because man has decided certain acts are legal or illegal, that is what determines things?
Well, at least we know who God is in your book, 1975: Man.
No reason to go to church in that case. Just bow down in front of the mirror and worship away.


Some of us are atheists/humanists, and feel that that sort of pretentiousness is a bit off-putting. We don't *need* your approval of things...


That's right, no reason to go to church for me. Agnostic here (agnostics believe that the existence of a god or gods cannot be proven or known).


Grandmasgirl: Are you actually lumping gays with pedophiles, kleptomaniacs and rapists? Quick, there's a bus leaving today for the Dark Ages. Get on it and please don't come back.


Are you the bus driver?


You are a complete imbecile for making this statement. You cannot compare Pedophiles, kleptos, killers, or rapists to gay people. So what you are saying is gay people are criminals too? Seriously? If you knock someone upside the head you are assaulting them. Acting on a feeling of hurting someone is wrong. Acting on the feeling of love for someone of the same sex is not. And if you feel it is then just mind your own business. It is quite simple.


SO....both you and Coasterfan don't agree with my way of thinking. That makes you no better than me. I have my opinions and you have yours. I am just stating that if you think gays cannot help the way they are made, then how can you think that anyone else can help the way they are made. I am saying that just because you are "made" a certain way, doesn't mean you have to act on it. If no one had ever made any laws then nothing would be illegal. I think the way I do, and you can think the way you do. Maybe YOU should stop commenting on here if you want to argue someone else's right to do so. BTW, I do respect your right to comment. Please respect mine.

John Harville

Grandmasgirl...does stupid hurt.
On what basis do you argue that Pedophiles, Kleptomanaics, killers, rapists are "made that way"?
UNLESS you claiming the 'making' responsibility on parents, priests, teachers, abusers, for those people being 'made'.
HOW DARE YOU class sexuality (and at one time left-handedness) with those other crimes you mention?
From your personal experience... is bigotry 'made'?


Re: "As a recovering Catholic, and former music minister,"

And you left the church why?

And yes, homosexuality can be a learned behavior and a choice, e.g. prison systems.


My new wife is an atheist, but didn't push her non-belief on me. Actually, she often attended church with me for more than a year after we met. Then, in early 2008, I read an article in "Psychology Today" about priests who didn't believe in God, yet who continued to preach.

Intrigued, I read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, and "Losing Faith in Faith" by Dan Barker (a former minister and well-known church musician who is now an atheist). By the time I finished the 2nd book, I realized that I didn't believe in God, Santa or the Easter Bunny. I opposed the church's stance on most social issues, so it was easy to cut ties with what I suddenly realized was a Neanderthal, misogynistic organization.

None of the current scientific/social research finds that homosexuality is a "choice" or "learned behavior". Those are old assumptions that have gradually fallen away over the past 30 years, which explains the large rise in acceptance of gay marriage over the same period.


Re: "I opposed the church's stance on most social issues, so it was easy to cut ties with what I suddenly realized was a Neanderthal, misogynistic organization."

So IOW, any opinions regarding ANY RCC teachings can be largely discounted to the point of being worthless due to your extreme prejudice.

Enjoy your centrally planned & controlled atheistic State-based world with which I'm sure you'll always agree. :)

You're naively merely just substituting one 'evil' for another.

Darwin's choice

....And then I joined the dark side, and have been preaching democrat crap since.



Contango, you don't have any gay friends, do you. Do some of your own research. Go to a local gay establishment and talk to the gay patrons and I'll guarantee you that 100% of them will tell you that being gay is not a learned behavior or choice. It's just what they are.

Trying to use the prison system to make your point is absolutely absurd. Homosexual prison sex is a form of dominance and pressure (except, of course, those prisoners that are actually gay).


So have you been in prison? People who have been there tell me that the homosexual lifestyle (gay for the stay) is entered into usually quite willingly as a means to satisfy their sexual needs, i.e. lust.

Prisoners usually lack self control and have poor impulse control and do not live for higher values such as love and thinking of others before themselves. It's about satisfying self and they use each other to that end. This is why homosexuality is so destructive.


No, I have never been in prison. I did have to write a dissertation on homosexuality in contemporary society in order to get my sociology degree. My beliefs are based on a large number of scientific and behavioral psychology studies.

I understand that science is sometimes hard for conservatives to comprehend.

"This is why homosexuality is so destructive." - Simply not true and the facts don't back up your case. Studies show that heterosexual men are much more likely to be pedophiles (over 80%, in fact), children raised in families with two gay parents have a slightly higher grade point average than those that are raised with straight couples and homosexual couples stay together at a higher rate than straight couples.

There's really no reason for me to go on. You have your backward opinion and nothing I say is going to change it. I will leave with this, though: there is a good chance that one of your close relatives that you love and trust is gay but hasn't told you because of your bigotry.


A dissertation...So you have a PhD in a sociology, one of the easiest and least challenging academic areas where studies are easily manipulated to arrive at the desired result? What about the incidence of mental illness in homosexuals compared to heterosexuals?

It may surprise you to know the extent of my education and familiarity with scientific methods. I do know that real scientists do not assume facts and certainly do not disparage people for their opinions based on personal interviews and observations.

A friend or relative would not tell me they were homosexual? That's ridiculous as homosexual men and women sought my counsel.

John Harville

"...lack self controll and have poor impulse control and do not live for higher values...."
Sound a lot like the description of persons - especially women - who 'want' or 'ask' to be raped.
And before you ask, I've never been to prison. but I've worked in ministry with persons who are/have been in prison. Sex in prison by those who are not homosexual generally is an act of survival. Rape is one of the most common - and most unprosecuted - crimes in prison. Rape also can be defined as willful submission to avoid abuse.
I ask again, does 'stupid' hurt?

Oh, and I hope you are not Catholic because your post probably has put one more punch in your ticket to Hell.


No kidding, at least there are some intelligent people commenting, who have an education on genetics and not, knots on their knuckles and head from being abused by the ruler and book!

John Harville

He has gay friends. he just doesn't know it.

John Harville

The homosexual ACT can be a 'learned behavior and a choice', e.g. the military and ships on long deployments.

Now... try to set aside the 'acts' and consider the love between two human beings.

If you can get your mind off the penile tissue and remember it's probably quite alright with you if a woman so engages with a man, then maybe you can elevate your vision beyond the crotch.


Do you really feel homosexual sex (between men) is an expression of love? To me it is an act that repudiates the feminine and indicates a deep seated contempt for women and the process of life creation.


John Harville

I repeat... get your mind off the act and concentrate on the love.

That said, however, does putting said tumescence in oral orifice of a woman thus illuminate the feminine and not reveal a deep-seated contempt for women and the process of life creation?

And thus you believe - as does the Church - procreation is the PRIMARY/ONLY allowable purpose for sexual relations? Even JESUS himself didn't believe that.


coasterfan...recovering Catholic??


"Recovering Catholic" isn't an unfair description. You have no idea the hangover that kind of thing leaves with you even AFTER you've decided something else is better for you!

(ADDED NOTE: In fairness, I suspect there's such a thing as a "recovering Jew," a "recovering Baptist," etc. But ALSO in fairness, most religions aren't quite as hot and heavy on the indoctrination of children and the suppression of grown-ups as is the Catholic Church! That's not universally a bad thing, mind you, but it IS a tough thing to wrap your mind around should you decide to leave!)

Bada Bing

This is wrong in so many ways. I am a proud member of SMCC and what this man has done for the school and the kids is a great thing,maybe if we all would quit trying to judge each other the world would be a better place. Let God judge,not us!!!

Raoul Duke

What if it's God that actually doesn't judge us, because with unconditional love comes NO NEED for judgment, therefore NO NEED for forgiveness.
Nah...we're all going to Hell.

The General

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.

Raoul Duke

You must have me confused with one of your old cell mates.