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

gyrocartfluffikins

I guess someone got a few swirlies while attending SMCC. While you're telling people not to stew in hate and intolerance, you might take a couple glances in your bathroom mirror.

sugar

Are you one of the ones that had daddy write those checks Gyro???

stayfit

1. SMCC was not forced to let him go. Without rebellion, we would still have slavery. This is an injustice.

2. Acceptance and love were far from offered. When a man is let go for his sexual orientation and a plethora support SMCC, they are not showing love for a "brother." They are tearing a man apart for his 'God-given attraction' to other men. Note: Psalm 139.

Finally, the government should cut off any tax break to this institution for it is not ACCEPT everyone.

underthebridge

You are right especially about #1. What would the Toledo Diocese have done if the church, the school, the administrators stood in support of Mr. Panetta. The diocese counts on their parishoners accomodating their demands.

That being said, I used to be catholic. These kinds of things are why I left. The moral code and values represented by the church no longer reflect my values.

Commenter

You are a very well spoken, intelligent student. Be proud of yourself.

Hunger

HALLELUJAH

Northstar

This was a very very tough and upsetting decision on both sides. But the Toledo Diocese made the call per their contract. Ms. Curtis I believe did what she could to make it work out. Mr. Panetta was allowed to resign with respect and hold his head high. I am proud of the school for sending the email out including the letter from Brian to us all. It showed the respect they had for him.

We are going to miss him. It is very difficult to explain to the younger children the reasons why he is no longer there.

Unfortunately, this internal communication to parents and children should never have hit the paper, now we have a few hundred younger children very confused who are not mature enough to understand.

There is no cover up, and I applaud that the email was sent to the student families , and the letter from Brian attached for us to read.

Mr. Panetta is very loved by us all and gifted..he truly does belong in another more progressive school for the arts. SMCC has feared his leaving for years. He has such talent and is wonderful with the children in developing a true love for music. Good luck Brian.....

Please everyone think before commenting on this and I would hope the SR takes into account the youth before doing any further damage to this man and also to the children who loved him so much.

The Answer Person

Oh spare us...

Northstar

YES! If you are Mr. Panetta or the grieving students!

The Answer Person

So are you saying, "Your kind is not wanted here."?

Wald

He didn't say that at all. You really need to work on your basic comprehension skills.

sugar

The recovering Catholic comment is old and lame. Bashing this school is lame. Those of you not involved and are here to push you're liberal agenda get lost. I have not been a supporter of gay marriage but when this happened it was a wake up call, those of you who are radical gays and gay supporters are ruining your cause with your ever divisive and insensitive rhetoric. So stop, now. Brian Panetta has to be one of the most wonderful, loving young men I have ever known, he took a rag tag school band and turned it into performers. The kids adore him, they will do anything for him, he cannot be replaced. This decision is NOT in the best interest of the students and should be reversed immediately. We want Brian back. BRING BRIAN BACK.

The Bizness

But this is a great example of why younger Catholics don't go to church. I am not bashing SMCC, I just think that this type of thing shouldn't effect employment. I also think the church has every right to do this, and I think they made the wrong decision here.

Dcfred20036

Had Mr. Panetta been, say a football coach who had revived a failing football program , the school would have looked the other way.

sugar

lol DC!!

Dcfred20036

Sugar, this is viral now....no way to stop it. Hope you look your best when CNN shows up!

DickTracey

DC, look up Rev. Varney. Or do you remember that?

Dcfred20036

Dick, I left Sandusky in early 80s. Not familiar with him.

stayfit

St. Mary Central Catholic is an eyesore to the state of Ohio after this terrible turn of events. Denying a man employment because of his sexual orientation is unconstitutional. Whatever the binding contract states, the government contributes tax breaks to all churches. If that church does not offer inclusion in employment to a person for being homosexual, then the government should no longer offer them anything. SMCC displayed a pathetic case of group think and cognitive dissonance to complement manipulation of the Bible in regards to serving self interests of man by removing this man from his occupation.

SMCC, what a shame.

cody6202000

It's not yet against either the Constitution of the US or of Ohio, mainly because people like Boehner (and 85%+ of the population) think the LGBT communities are already covered by EHEA or ENDA...

And that's exactly why we need them!

stayfit

St. Mary Central Catholic, a homophobic institution to spread propaganda to students about what is morally right and wrong.

You are on the wrong side of history.

sugar

Bring Brian Back!
Bring Brian Back
Bring Brian BAck!

sugar

Bring Brian Back!
Bring Brian Back
Bring Brian BAck!

sugar

Stayfit that will not help. We want him back, stop with the nastiness that won't work.

cockynurse

SMCC Student:

Your post was, by far, the most mature response posted. Be very proud.

Brian Panetta's sexuality and homosexual relationship was none of my child's business. Unfortunately, my child knew about Brian Panetta's sexuality and engagement to a man. It is a Catholic school. What do you people expect?

Kelly

Love? Tolerance? Fairness?

J. Hartman

While I am not an advocate and nor do I support same sex marriage, I do firmly believe if two people love and care for each other, who are we to judge? I have never met either of these two people in question, but I understand the band/choir director was hired to a job and in those 5 years has done it well and the students have benefited from his knowledge. In my opinion,the Catholic Church seems to forget about the MULTIPLE "Leaders" of their church, that resulted in many lawsuits and denial on their part to cover up all of the pedophiles not to mention those "leaders" took an oath to live as a simple person tn regards to material things. I'm sorry, but a Rolex watch and a Mercedes Benz doesn't fit that description. I am not saying all fit this category and religion is a good thing as it builds character, values, and a moral foundation, but when the church leaders tell you to do one thing as they do another, uumm something isn't right there. I was raised in a Lutheran Church and I consider myself spiritual as opposed to claiming a certain religion. Just as in politics, as soon as you claim a certain party, you allow them to make decisions for you. I do believe Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior, but I don't need a mass of people, a building, or anything else to tell me that. I believe the Native Americans, even though it's not considered a religion, are the closest to getting it right with their beliefs and code of ethics.(Creator) I would also point to the last pope's sudden retirement/resignation? as an example. Just like North Korea and Iran were brushed under the rug by the mainstream media. IDK, maybe because there were just a few things that have been covered up and he took part or had knowledge? Keep passing that collection plate, the truth always will come out in the end. People ask why the churches have diminished in numbers, very simple. They don't practice what they preach. Not grouping everyone in that category, but how do you damn people when the institution allows it, turns a blind eye, and has the money to pay off those with legitimate claims? I'm also not just referring to the Catholic Church specifically, but all religions. If I remember correctly from Bible Study, one of the 10 commandments is "Thou shall not kill" but daily we kill in the name of? I don't get it, just as I don't get politics, but you DON'T kill anyone unless your life is threatened. It's a very simple concept, the Golden Rule, whether you agree with ones lifestyle or not, you still treat them as you wish to be treated. Again, I am not for same sex marriage, but I do believe that is a personal choice and not my place to judge how one lives their life. I do find it odd the hypocrisy and I also agree with whoever stated above about the adultery/divorces which are for some reason not touched or refrained from conversation, but it was ok for decades of child abuse to take place and covered up? None of us are perfect, but unless someone's breaking the law, harming you, or a loved one, let them live their life and be happy with who they are. By the way, Christianity has been around for what 2500 years or something like that? So everyone prior to the Old Testament is now burning in purgatory? Just my opinion and before you mention my resolution for the New Year Fireside, this is one which needed to be commented on.

Pterocarya frax...

J. Hartman...I often agree with you, or at least am able to follow and respect your thought process, but I am struggling with a couple of your comments here. You keep saying it is not for you to judge, and it is a personal choice, and you mention the golden rule. But you then twice say you don't support same sex marriage.

Those thoughts don't seem congruous. Am I missing something?

J. Hartman

I apologize and I do at times speak in circles, but when you hit send, it is what it is. I will attempt to clarify. I personally don't understand the same sex relationships. I do have many friends who are involved in a same sex relationships. They know it's a subject I don't comprehend, but I don't shun them for who they wish to date nor do I think any less of them for their preference. I guess it can be best summoned up as we agree to disagree on that topic. That may not have cleared anything up for you, but it is possible to disagree with someone and support them at the same time. I don't believe this man should have lost his job over who he chooses as a partner. Like I said, I may not have put the proper wording together on the original comments, but it is possible to disagree with someone and support them at the same time. I do support them to be left alone and live their lives. Just like free speech. I may completely disagree with another person and their viewpoint, but on the flip side I will defend and support anyone to take advantage of that amendment.(while it still exists) PS, this dialogue makes us all better as we discuss topics that may be slightly touchy and can come to understand the viewpoint of others. S.M.I.L.E.

Teeter's picture
Teeter

I usually don't comment but, this is so egregious and outrageous i could not help myself. First, I see a Change.org petition in someone's future as well it should be....this dialogue is long overdue.

Does anyone else see a problem with the services of Mr. Panetta being perfectly acceptable up UNTIL he became engaged? The Church can't have it both ways -- either the lifestyle choice is accepted in totality or it is not -- that's the rub. The issue really should be just as much about the double standard as intolerance. "No choice..." My Aunt Fanny, that's horse crap, we all have choices. How about standing up for someone because it's the right thing to do? What lesson are the students learning here? Homosexuality is ok as long as marriage isn't involved? So it's ok to live together, just don't get married? Really? Here's a thought, let's teach our young people to stand for something lest they fall for anything, let's teach them to be tolerant and accepting showing love and God's grace and to stand up for someone in the face of adversity.

You cannot "love" someone without accepting who and what they are, Jesus did that for each and every one of us and proved it by giving his life at Calvary. Seems as though I read that somewhere...oh...now I remember.....John 3:16 and I don't remember reading "except gays" (or anyone else for that matter) in that passage.

May God have mercy on the bigoted, selfish, intolerant people that we proved every single day we are.

Diedre Cole

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