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

John Harville

CORAM DEO... "In the presence of God". Is this your exclusive standing or are you part of the CORAM DEO ACADEMY/ies that focus on selectively teaching the Bible?

huronguy

rbenn Your one of few on here with common sense! What's so hard to understand here people? He voluntarily applied for a job that doesn't endorse or approve of his sexual lifestyle. does a thief apply for jobs at a bank? Then a homo should have known better than have the Catholic church as his employer! point blank, he was always more than welcomed to leave and find another job but he CHOSE to work at a catholic school and then openly expressed his love for another guy and got fired and you charlatans act surprised and outraged! Btw please prove to me your born gay? It's a learned behavior people! it's so much easier to use the excuse "I was born this way" than to be a big person and resist your evil urges. I have urges and temptations everyday i have to refrain from but I don't use the excuse, I was born this way as a excuse to live a immoral lifestyle. If the majority of you try to have gay sex your conscience is going to let you know it's not right. some obey their moral compass others don't. This man knowingly put himself in this position but it's the churches fault? I'm not catholic, I don't believe in some practices and have to question the catholic church on their deity's and so forth but I just don't understand how people are defending him, He may be a great guy and all but he knew better than this and eventually knew this would occur. HE did it to himself. it also amazes me how the g&l community expects folks to respect their views and opinions but if your the first person to not agree with their "lifestyle" your this and that. It almost compares to a person that cries racism and injustice but when another person of a different race or nationality as them does or says something they don't like the racist words start to fly back but yet there they were crying and doing the same things as there racist counter parts.

John Harville

Wow. HURON GUY. How long did it take to compile so much bigotry in one space? Even your own language ('homo') exposes your hatred and bigotry.
Sources at SMCC - even the article - note the Church/School was NOT unaware of his 'status' virtually the whole time he taught there and never took any action. Only when he decided to commit to marriage - currently not recognized in Ohio - the LOCAL church (not the Diocese or Vatican) decided to take action.
IF a heterosexual employee gets engaged with a similar wedding date, does the Church conclude there is no premarital sexual activity.
FINALLY, oh great understander... where does it say this has been a sexual relationship? You think homosexuals cannot be in love without being in bed?
Does stupid hurt?

MarbleheadNative

Huron guy, does your wife know???

stayfit

Just a few verses that show that the Bible should not be used as influence in the government or work place are listed below. Churches create an atmosphere of group think. People are afraid to question motive and authority.

Put to death for not believing in God (Deuteronomy 17:22)
Be a fortune teller, be put to death (Leviticus 20:27)
Cheat on husband or wife, be put to death(Leviticus 20:10)
Sex before marriage, be put to death(Deuteronomy 22:20-21)
The people of Israel are stricken. Their roots are dried up; they will bear no more fruit. And if they give birth, I will slaughter their beloved CHILDREN." (Hosea 9:11-16 NLT)

Babo

All laws from the Old Testament were supplanted by Jesus Christ's Great Commandment:

There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test him and said "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said to him, What is written in the law? How do you read it? He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" He replied to him You have answered correctly do this and you will live"

The Gospel according to Luke Chapter 10 verses 25-28.

SamAdams

Old Testament laws were NOT supplanted by Jesus' "Great Commandment." Certainly, if you DO "love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being..." you'll follow His rules, will you not? You wouldn't want to disappoint Him, would you? In point of fact, in Matthew, Jesus is Himself asked if he had come to change or supplant the laws of the Old Testament, and He answered, "I have not come to change the law, but to fulfill it."

If you haven't read ALL of the Bible, you haven't read it. And if you cherry pick from just the Old or New Testaments, you're not adhering to it.

Babo

Correct, Jesus Christ did fulfill the Law as given by God not the law of man (i.e. legalism as practiced by the Pharisees and others). I guess my choice of the word supplant was ill advised.

The Great Commandment is the first of the Ten Commandments which come from God himself. If you put God first you will strive your best not to violate the Ten Commandments and to love your neighbor as yourself. In effect we are called to emulate Jesus Christ in that we are called to live in service to others not for ourselves.

However, the point is St Mary's is a private religious institution and its practices and beliefs are protected by the First Amendment. As you correctly pointed out this entire issue concerns a private contract that was breached and St Mary's had every right to terminate the contract.

What I find ironic is that most of the posters here would not appreciate people who are not members of their "private club" (for example a PAC that advocates for homosexual rights) forcing them to accept as an employee a person who rejects their values. I would be the first to agree and defend that a PAC that works for homosexual rights has the right to fire an employee who does not support their values.

stayfit

The first amendment does protect freedom of religion allows for the teaching of Biblical contexts, such as a preacher could state the following verse as truth and it is protected: Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination (Leviticus 18:22).

It does not protect the institution that discriminates against someone based on sexual orientation.

Babo

Are you a lawyer? Legal citation please for your claim that a religious institution cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation.

stayfit

Using Religion to Discriminate Against LGBT people

In services

In many states, businesses are barred by law from discriminating against customers based on their sexual orientation, as well as based on race, religion, or other legally protected categories. Increasingly, we see business owners claiming that they do not have to follow these laws but can instead refuse to provide services – including lodging, wedding dresses, and photography services – because the owners object to same-sex relationships. In addition, we see social service organizations that receive government funding deny services to same-sex couples. Everyone is entitled to their own religious beliefs, but when you operate a business or run a publicly funded social service agency open to the public, those beliefs do not give you a right to discriminate (Link: https://www.aclu.org/using-relig...).

The Catholic Church receives Federal Funds(Link: http://unewsonline.com/2012/02/1...).

Babo

Again please provide a citation applicable to the Church in its hiring decisions in religious affilated teaching jobs. You are citing rules from some other states applicable to for profit businesses and these rules are not relevant to this matter.

John Harville

But then comes John 13:34 (and Luke and Matthew and John 15) during the Last Supper as Jesus was on his way to fulfill his mission:
Luke 13:34 "A NEW COMMANDMENT I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

John Harville

Babo: All laws from the Old Testament were supplanted by Jesus Christ's Great Commandment:

REALLY? REALLY? The Ten Commandments are 'laws from the Old Testament'...and then you cite Jesus citing the Old Testament law?

IGNORE BABO... he uses what he chooses from his favorite weapon The Holy Bible. And yet, the False Prophet knows not whereof he speaketh.

stayfit

How has the band director been shown love?

goodtime1212

Its ok to have sex with little boys, but since the priest was not gay that's ok. But be gay and not hurt any children that's wrong?

WeThePeople1965

Anybody trying to judge anybody, whether it's someone who is homosexual or not, is a sin, also. Judgement is by God and God alone. I would MUCH rather see a homosexual couple get married than a priest molest a child. I'm not Catholic, and I do support gay marriage. It's not up to me on who someone loves, besides, we need some more love in this world.

sugar

Huronguy, you will burn in hell sooner then Mr. Panetta will. WOW! This man gave his heart and soul to the kids and the Catholic Community. Chances are he is forever gone, but I hope this leads the way for change.

Panther Student

As a student at SMCC, it upsets me to see people talk so poorly about MY school - a school I have attended since kindergarten. My parents pay a significant amount of money for me to attend SMCC, and I am truly blessed with the opportunity to further my education and athletic abilities at such a great school.

On another note, my school does not teach its students to hate gay people. We all absolutely loved Mr. Panetta and still do. My fellow student who commented before me made several valid points on the terms of Mr. Panetta's resignation. With less than 200 students in our high school, we are literally one big family. Inseparable. And this situation, although we are saddened, will only bring us closer together.

Big Momma

YOUR school discriminated against a member of your "family." You should be angry.

Panther Student

It was in his contract. Nonetheless I have the utmost respect for Mr. Panetta. None of us wanted to see him go. The students loved him, we all did. A school would be nothing without it's students, but you have to realize that we had no control over the decision that was made. I am not angry, because Mr. Panetta left in a respectful way - rather I am sad because we lost a great person and it hurts me to see people speak so negatively about a school I happen to love.

J. Hartman

Just seen your last reply after I finished typing my last. Appears you get it, have great role models as parents, and wise beyond your years. You will be just fine!

Panther Student

Thank you. It's very much appreciated.

SamAdams

No, the school didn't discriminate. The school teaches the beliefs of the Church, and the beliefs of the Church concerning homosexuality are quite clear. You'll note that nobody suggested Mr. Panetta be stoned, and that nobody here is saying how much they hated him or how evil he is. Quite the contrary, in fact! But the simple and bottom line fact remains: Mr. Panetta signed a contract. He violated it. The end.

We can debate all day long about whether or not the contract is appropriate (I'd argue that, if you're going to work for a Catholic institution, it's perfectly appropriate whereas an identical contract in the public sector would not be acceptable). What we CAN'T argue is whether the contract, AS IT STANDS, was violated since it clearly was.

J. Hartman

Panther Student, you are definitely blessed to be attending the educational institution you are currently enrolled in. Some of my very best friends have graduated from SMCC, went on to graduate from their respective college/university, and many of those now have their children attend the St Mary's schools. I for sure know the education you are receiving will treat you well now and well into the future. I also believe Mrs. Curtis is a great fit as president presiding over the schools and her hand was probably pushed from those above her. I don't believe anyone can question what you will learn and what you will be equipped with to tackle your future to become anything you desire, as SMCC has some of the very best educators. So, through out your life you will be faced with many obstacles and people who may have a different belief system than you. It is up to you to decide what you feel is important and what path you will travel. In the end, it will come down to your beliefs and what you feel is important. None of us on here are 100% wrong and none of us are 100% right. It's a discussion and I do encourage you to share your thoughts. I do ask you to keep in mind, you will never agree with everyone, but as long as you agree with yourself, you will do just fine! Good luck moving forward and learn all you can.

John Harville

Panther Student... have you ever.... done that Sin of Onan thing the Church says is a sin and an act of abortion?

"It was in his contract?" As an SMCC student since kindergarten you/parents have entered into several contracts. Have you/they lived up to all its provisions? Did you 'know' about Mr. Panetta's lifestyle? If so, you/parents were required by your/their contract to report that situation to the school/church.
It seems to most here that Mr. Panetta was the most honest one here. He could have kept the engagement secret - as other secrets have been kept at SMCC through the years. Other students have stated he never made his relationship a secret. But no one reported it?
Perhaps he is the ONLY person at SMCC - including you and your parents - with any integrity and TRUE BELIEF in the principles and laws of church and school.
Maybe a little reconciliation is in your future?

Babo

Oh come on, what kind of person berates a gentle teenager on the internet for their personal religious beliefs. You clearly have no respect for the rights of any other person but yourself.

cody6202000

Babo, look up the name "Caiden Cowger" and then come back to me about "berating a gentle teenager." This kid is a 15-year-old radio "host" from out in New Jersey who has received a TON of attention on LGBT news for his (what can be best described as) "screeds" that are anti-LGBT and anti-left on a level that would make any right-wing talking head proud. (We're talking Tony Perkins, Bryan Fischer, Maggie Gallagher level of demonization.)

If someone comes on the message board, they (and by extension, their posts) are fair game for criticisms. Don't like that? Well, use the (right-wing) idea and "don't post."

Babo

The poster isn't "Caiden Cowger" and hasn't entered any "screeds". That's your area of expertise.

cody6202000

It's close enough for the point I'm trying to make here. I said it in the last post and I'll reiterate it: any one of us who enters these fora are fair game for criticism, and the person's age has nothing to do with whether or not they are "unworthy" of such criticism. Deflection of my example just because it might actually have some salience doesn't lessen the idea that any post can be called out.

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