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



So true!

The Answer Person

You go to the Sandusky Church of the Nazarene, right?


What a tool.


,Ok, so let me get this straight-the majority of you are referencing the commandments that are laid out in the Old Testament, that it is immoralimmorally wrong for homosexuals to be together, etc. You quote Leviticus and some other Books, etc.and as we all know, the 10 commandments. Ok, so here it goes. ANYTHING in the Old Testament is considered to be Mosaic Law, in other words,a contractual offering to the Jews from God.The sacrifices, burnt offerings, etc.we not meant for the Gentle and later for the Jews who believed Christ was Lord.Any and all prior to Jesus being crucified was negated at the point of death by Him. As we learned in Bible Study, He was our ultimate sacrifice.So, during the time He preached, He was asked what is the greatest commandment that should be followed? His reply? Love thy neighbor as yourself, true? Paul, Matthew and John later wrote books and letter stating Castro's other ideals but for those of you that are TRUE Christians,I think you need to read your Bibles again, with a pure heart and with the Holy Spirit residing in you, because what I'm reading from the so-called Christian community being represented on here,you are only repeating what you have been told,Westbury Westboro Baptist Church,anyone? And, another thing.To equate takes in prisons to a homosexual lifestyle is disgusting. That's like equating being raped inn the street as a sexual thing, as opposed to a act of control, oppression and brutality, which is what it is.There are numerous people incarcerated who do not engage in these acts to fulfill sexual needs and to state otherwise is the most ignorant thing I've ever heard.


Ignorance abounds in Sandusky.


No sure if your comment of ignorance is in reference towards me,but I can assure you,I'm far from being ignorant. And it's really a shame,because I actually agreed to quite a few of you viewpoints you made.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Personal attacks (including: name calling, presumption of guilt or guilt by association, insensitivity, or picking fights).

What does Mrs F...

If "violating the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic Church" is such a concern, then how come Brian's "devotion and service to the school and the gifts and talents he brought to the music program" was so graciously accepted and promoted for 4 1/2 years even though SMCC knew about Brian's relationship with Nathan?
What a loss for the students and Brian!


It costs a lot of money to attend this school, we want the best available instructors, Brian's shoes cannot be filled.

yea right

this is why churches are dead..only the weak minded go and get told how to live their own lives..
as along as you know your right with whom ever you pray too.. then you are fine..but when you are weak and have to be told by a selfcentered one sided cult..then there is no hope for you until you can break free ..


Good point.


He did resign, resign or be fired type of deal? So much for equal opportunity. Religion versus Federal law. The discrimination laws get a little confusing at times.


I read both the gentleman's resignation and the schools. I also read the article and headline. Was this an involuntary termination or resignation? Was he forced to quit or did he resign?

Matt Westerhold

It's my understanding he offered his resignation to be effective at the end of the current school year, but was fired on the same day. He was later offered the opportunity to immediately resign, or the termination would simply stand, so he opted to resign. So, it would seem he was both fired, and he resigned. 


Homosexuality is wrong. In God's eyes' and in the Church's eyes. The liberal push to get it accepted frankly sickens me. ''Be tolerant of homosexuals while they're totally intolerant of Christianity.'' What hypocrisy. ''You must accept what we believe ( homosexuality) while we tromp all over the things ( Christianity and the Word of God) that you believe.'' Makes me want to throw up. What a mess this nation is in. I believe it's because we've forgotten God.


I absolutely agree.


Then don't do it, but leave us alone...

Kinda like we leave the hetero community (?) alone to do what it long as everything's consensual!

The Bizness

You have no idea what God thinks. Not a single mortal does!


observer, feel free to thow up. People like you make me sick.


Feel free to throw up.


Good for you St. Mary's, why is it that if a non-christian organization slams, criticizes or demands for change on Christian based ideas it is okay and the people are all for it, but when a Christian organization stands up for their beliefs and rights it is not okay, What Hypocrite's you all are in condemning this Christian based organization, The Catholic Church. Obviously you don't read nor believe in the Bible that is in your home or probably packed away and never used. Read Romans 1:26 - 32. If you don't belief in the Bible or God then don't ask for help in time of need, because you would be a hypocrite in that. Joshua 24: 15 says " and if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But for me and my house we will serve the Lord". No compromise, no surrender, I will not bow down to the failed beliefs of a Godless nation and the those who believe that it is okay to take things in and out of the Bible to use for their own beliefs. When it is all said and done, if I am wrong in my beliefs and my faith and my RELATIONSHIP in Jesus nothing happens to me when I leave this earthly body and place, however for those who don't believe in Heaven and Judgement and what the Word/Bible says and Jesus proclaims then when you leave this earthly place and body you will not be going to a reward of spending time with the ONE and ONLY TRUE GOD, you will be spending time in the most horrible place you can't even imagine for eternity. I am not perfect and never said nor say I am and I will be judged for those things I have not repented of or asked for forgiveness for but I know where I am going and it is with my Saviour and LORD, Jesus Christ in Heaven.


Well said! Amen!


Concernedtruth, I am not a Christian and it's good to know that I shouldn't come to your church if I am ever in need. If you or any of your fellow church constituents are in need, though, please don't hesitate to come to me for a helping hand. I'm always willing to help where I can no matter what your religious beliefs are. I'm right on Schenk Road.

Pterocarya frax...

I suspect that many non Christians such as yourself live their lives in a more "Christian" like manner than many that loudly proclaim their Christianity. The proof is in the comments on this story.




It's not about allowing them in my church or any church, you misread or understood what I said, I as a Christian stand on God's word that says homosexuality is wrong. I did not say nor would say I would not "allow" a homosexual in church and I have no right nor would I do that. All people are God's creatures and All people are loved by God. We are all sinners and fall short of the Glory of God. Your misunderstanding of my post is that I am a hater of homosexuals and that is not true, I do not agree with their lifestyle, but still believe they as any person has the right to God's Grace and Love. One more thing, you must of forgotten the area where I said that I have homosexual friends and they appreciate my truthfulness and honesty and to this day I would welcome them as anyone in my home or in my church. Please don't condemn what you don't understand.


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


One last thing for all those thinking I am bashing the homosexuals, I have and still have a number of friends that are homosexual, I do not and have not ever hated them. They understand my stance and my beliefs about homosexuality and I have prayed for them and have always had a good working relationship with them and they also know I don't agree with their lifestyle but I will always consider them a friend.


I'll pray for you?

We don't WANT or NEED it: that's nothing more than the "moral disapprobation" that was discussed in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) and Bowers v. Hardwick (1996), and the courts didn't side with you then, and I doubt they'd side with you on that idea now...