Catholic Church has school's back on firing

Sandusky Central Catholic School's forced resignation gains national attention, outraged alumnus creates blog to follow story.
Alissa Widman Neese
Jan 13, 2014

The Catholic Church broke tradition Monday, releasing an official statement in support of a band and choir director's recent departure from Sandusky Central Catholic School.

Meanwhile, a group of outraged alumni are assembling on a blog and social media, expressing support and aiming to springboard the story to national media outlets.

Brian Panetta, who was in his fifth year of employment with Sandusky Central Catholic School, was forced to resign this past week after announcing plans to pursue a gay marriage next year.

He initially received an unsigned letter of termination indicating he was fired, but school officials and representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, which oversees the school, later agreed he could resign.

Click here for all Register coverage of this story.

Panetta, who identifies as Catholic, plans to marry his fiancé in July 2015.

A newly created blog,, is advocating for Panetta's rehire. It also links to a petition, which netted more than 200 signatures and supportive comments in its first day.

"Everyone loved him, even people who aren't in favor of gay marriage, because they loved him as a person and a teacher," said alumnus Fred Staffeld, who is managing the new blog from Washington D.C. "We're outraged by the hypocrisy. Instead of firing others who are breaking rules, they only fired somebody who was just upfront and honest about who he is."

Staffeld graduated from St. Mary Central Catholic High School in 1982, during what he calls the "glory days" of band, when John Kustec, now a Perkins Schools employee, was his director.

Panetta reminded Staffeld of a young Kustec, because he ignited passion in his students and more than doubled the once dwindling band's size.

When Staffeld received mixed messages about who was responsible for Panetta's abrupt resignation, and later learned the truth, he felt inspired to take action, he said.

"I've received some angry messages about creating a circus of this," Staffeld said. "If this school didn't want a circus, it shouldn't have discriminated in 2014. It's going to create a firestorm."

The story has since picked up national attention, most recently being featured on and LGBTQ Nation, two of the world's largest websites for gay rights news.

Panetta issued a public statement about the matter Friday, which permitted the Catholic Diocese of Toledo to respond today, according to its statement. The diocese typically doesn't comment on personnel matters, in order to protect individuals, it said.

"In light of the Church's clear teaching on sacred marriage and the fact that Mr. Panetta himself has publicly indicated his marriage plans are contrary to Church teachings and are the issue at the heart of this matter, the leadership of Sandusky Central Catholic School properly determined that his employment could not continue," the diocese stated. 

"When Sandusky Central Catholic School informed the diocese of the situation, the diocese fully concurred it was the correct decision and in keeping with the terms of his teacher-minister contract," it concluded.

Click here to read the full statement.

The statement offers little, if any, new insight, as the diocese's spokeswoman offered a brief comment this past week, in which she also stated Panetta's forced resignation was a "local decision," and the diocese only offered consultation.

All Sandusky Central Catholic School employees sign a contract stating they will live a lifestyle according to the Catholic faith.

After he became engaged on Christmas Day, Panetta told school principal Melody Curtis about his wedding plans, anticipating the pair would agree an end-of-the-year resignation would be the most appropriate way to ensure no conflicts resulted. He received his letter of termination later that night.

His five-year relationship with his now-fiancé, Nathan David, was not a secret, as David often attended school events and met several students and their families, Panetta said.

Panetta has no plans to take any legal action against Sandusky Central Catholic School.

He cares deeply for the school, its faculty and its students, and only wants to perpetuate the truth about why he can no longer teach them, he said.

He is currently a graduate student at Bowling Green State University. He plans to graduate in May and seek employment elsewhere, possibly near his hometown in North Carolina, or David's hometown in Illinois.

Sandusky Central Catholic School issued a news release this past week about the matter, simply stating Panetta had resigned. It also provided a link to Panetta's statement, in which he called himself a "proud and gay Catholic."


Other Catholic school firings circulate in national media

Sandusky Central Catholic School's forced resignation of its gay band and choir director addresses a hot-button issue constantly circulating in national media.

On Friday, the same day Panetta issued a statement about his resignation, Michael Griffin, a gay teacher at a Catholic school in Pennsylvania, was fired after filing for a marriage license with his partner. 

The pair had a civil union and the teacher wore a ring, and as with Panetta, school administrators knew he was gay. 

Their relationship didn't become a problem until Griffin emailed school administrators about his marriage license, which they interpreted as a public statement.

Earlier this month, Mark Zmuda, a gay vice principal in Washington, was also fired for marrying his partner. School officials suggested Zmuda get a divorce to keep his job, but he rejected the idea, he said.

Students have rallied in support of Zmuda and actively protested his departure, staging a sit-in and then walking out in solidarity, effectively shutting down their school. They have also rallied a social media campaign and crafted an online petition with now more than 32,000 signatures.

The most prominent firing case in Ohio involved a Catholic school in Columbus, whose officials fired lesbian teacher Carla Hale for listing her female partner in her mother's obituary in The Columbus Dispatch this past year.



Very nice that you took the time to make the list, and it may shed some light on why there are people for change..It can happen on some levels.

I swore I would not comment again and this is the last time I will partake in increasing the commentary on this subject and web hits.

Many changes have occurred since Vatican II. There are many organizations pushing for change on other more specific areas of the Catholic Church, not just this one topic, the majority of which are really procedure in the mass it looks like...except "Purgatory" which is still there as curriculum in class.

Other movements in the Catholic Church for change do not get this much press coverage ; Divorce(some cannot help this occurring), women priests, use of stem cells and other similar research and procedues for curing diseases that are fatal(against the Catholic Church), artificial insemination being allowed...just a few examples.

But religious freedom and everyone's individual freedom of the soul is what counts. Hence why there are many denominations.

"ENOUGH is ENOUGH!!!" This entire debacle of the SR reporting and it "methods"(HIGHLIGHT) of keeping this alive is only for their own pitiful use to promote an individual reporter (who will probably put this on her resume and move on to another employer using this as her gateway to a higher paying job) and the SR's personal agenda. It has gone on too long.

Leave it alone, Mr. Panetta has already issued many statements. All of which show character beyond comprehension ; more than many could ever have expected from anyone in this world. He has accepted this graciously and moved on, he is committed to his faith and also his viewpoint. The integrity under the pressure of the media he has shown through this really has me dumbfounded. Most people would have taken this and run with it to hit big $$$$. Yet he has contributed to support the decision and continues to issue statements of the love of the school, families and children. He already states upon receiving his masters he plans on moving closer to family for his next position.

SR start looking into a real headlines..there are many who do not uphold the oath they have taken in this "county". Legal Oath! They are ruining lives daily. And yes they have a contract also, which they break every minute. Put your efforts there and really help the people in this county by forcing a change instead burying one targeted set of people with a issue which is dead. I see on your online site and print paper many other more worthy issues to expand your reporting on. More importantly there are many you refuse to know why? Because they make a real reporter go research the information and actually work for it..not just use what is handed to them and keep repeating it.

A contract is a contract. Deal done! Everyone start accepting this as it is. Dead issue....move on to the bigger untold stories. Start reporting not repeating.

John Harville

" to act and speak in a way that supports the Roman Catholic Church and its teachings. I understand that serious actions contrary to the Church's teachings (including but not limited to publicly living together outside marriage, public support of abortion, public support or use of a surrogate, public use or support of in vitro fertilization or flagrant deceit or dishonesty) will not be tolerated."

^^^^is the contract language.
So to be an employee, one must to sacrifice US Citizenship as it pertains to certain Constitutional rights.

Where are all those screamers about 'Freedom of Speech'?

To be employed the contract requires to not publicly speak - nor publicly participate - on issues the Church opposes?



Amen! I wish the SR would focus on its responsibility under the First Amendment to be the watchdog on government for the good of the community and stop beating up on an institution that has a First Amendment right to freedom of conscience/thought (the true meaning of freedom of religion). I can't think of any greater "sin" for a journalist than to advocate as the SR appears to be doing for "thought police"

To Mr. Harville, his contract is legal. It is well settled law that Religious Schools are permitted to terminate a teacher for violation of a religious tenet.

John Harville

BABO... you wanna cite that 'well-settled law' for us? The only cases on point state such schools may terminate MINISTERS who also are teachers. His title never carried the word minister.
There also is well-settled law, such as the "Hosanna" decision (2012) you cited incorrectly previously. The nine SUPCO justices were very specific in their ruling and in individual decisions.
For example, a religious school cannot terminate employees for "publicly living together" or several teachers and principals in northwest Ohio would be out of jobs.
Schools also cannot act 'selectively' in enforcing their rules. But since it's been reduced to writing....
And did SCCS and drs. Dudenhoefer and Tyler who headed the search committee which brought Melody Curtiss to Sandusky from Monroe County REALLY intend SCCS to be involved in a lawsuit that could take years (the teacher is not the ONLY person with standing) to bring such a suit)? Did they really envision national spotlights being trained on this institution?


Bigotry and hate don't have to be factual, it is all based on feelings, propaganda and a big fat dose of FEAR.


"BABO... you wanna cite that 'well-settled law' for us?"

Well, let's see, in the most recent case, which involved a TEACHER, not a minister, despite the Obama Administration sending the Solicitor General in loaded for bear to oppose the ministerial exception, the Supreme Court voted NINE TO ZERO in favor of its broad application.

And yes, the terminated employee is the only one with standing.


Thank you. I tried telling him that the Hosana Tabor case concerned a teacher and that the church viewed teachers as "ministers" of their faith and thus the "ministerial exception" applied to her termination in another story.

John Harville

According to soon-to-be saints JXXIII and JPII, social change IS a requirement of the Church.

You might have heard of XXIII's Vatican II and the new Catechism written at the direction of JPII?

Or are you not old enough to remember the Latin Mass?


What makes you think that if a person is conservative they are against civil rights and the poor and elderly?! Talk about judging!! I am conservative I don't agree with gay marriage and I don't agree with abortion....but I do care about the poor, elderly and the young and I believe in civil rights. So stop making assumptions about things and people you know NOTHING about!!

John Harville

I realize you are striving to follow in SOME of Jesus' footsteps. Strangely I can find no scripture where he changed the content of THE ONLY COMMANDMENT he ever gave us.
"This is my commandment. I command you to love one another as I have loved you."
How does that fit with your statements? And why to you list those for whom you care... ie: the poor, elderly and the young...? Do you include the poor, elderly and young who are gay, Black, believe differently than you, Muslim,...?


Jesus calls us to love, this is true! However, sin is sin!! Just because I don't agree with gay marriage doesn't mean I don't love gay people!! Why are people so quick to think that? Jesus also says to not be of this world....which means just because the world says it's ok, doesn't mean God does!! I believe God loves gay people to, but it doesn't mean he condones the sin....and yes, I would help a gay, black, muslim if they needed marriage isn't a life or death comparison!!


What you're saying is you want us to deny our true beings and live according to *your* interpretation of your belief system, and anyone else's system, which may be more inclusive and understanding, can go pound sand?

If you don't agree with our wishes for equality, then no, even though you might say you do, you do *not* actually "love" us, because you would denigrate us in our wishes to self-actualize.

I always find it funny when these people who are out to "protect marriage" try to push the LGBT community back into the closet and into loveless relationships that are bound to fail. What sort of "protection" and "sanctification" is that? It's not going to lower the rate of marriage failure, nor will it lower the rate of STD transmission, because people are going to be sneaking around outside of prying eyes to find their physical pleasures, if that's what they're looking for!


Those of you who call us Christians intolerant, are the most intolerant!! You continue to push your agenda on us and for the most part we take it!! But the minute we stand up for our beliefs we get jumped on and frankly I'm tire of it!! Most Christians are good people who would help a fellow man no matter what! But we cannot go against our faith and say that the homosexual lifestyle is ok!! But you expect us to change because the world says it's ok?! I'm not going to argue about this anymore because I don't feel that we will ever see eye to eye on this, however, this is a church and the church has a right (so far) in this country to stand on it's belief system!! Again, he signed the contract, he broke the contract simple as that!!


Funny :) You know what my agenda is? To be able to live my life with the person I'm attracted to (much like you already can), to be able to make that relationship formal under the eyes of the CONSTITUTION (like you already can), to not have to worry about what might happen should he have health issues in the future (much like you can), to go out and grab dinner a couple nights a week at a fast-food joint (much like you), and to spend two nights a week kicking everyone's tail at the bowling alley (well, maybe *that* is one that is strictly me, but hey!)...

Also, though, our "agenda" (and you show your bias when you use such a loaded word ) is to be able to say to the world that I have a partner without the fear of having the ever-loving snot whacked out of me by people who have listened to the tenets of YOUR belief systems for so long that it is an imbued part of their being! THAT is my "agenda" that you're acting so petulant about...

Why *should* we be tolerant of people who, indirectly, are responsible for all of the bias crimes and the legislative acts that have been passed in nations such as Russia and Nigeria? Intolerance of intolerance is NOT intolerance!


True Christians do NOT act like that! and I am truly sorry that you have ever had that happen to you...because believe it or not, I don't think that you should be beaten or killed because you are gay! God loves you and does NOT want that for you either! People who do that are not Christians...they may say they are, but they aren't! Do you believe in God?


Sorry, nope! I rejected religion of my own accord at the age of ~12-13 when I started critically thinking about the situation. (And, coming from an evangelical Lutheran family? It never was met with 100% acceptance, so I've heard *all* the arguments.) Then, coming out at 18 and understanding just what the world felt about me (at the time) only solidified my worldview.


"What you're saying is you want us to deny our true beings"

No, he's saying that he wants you to refrain from engaging in certain activities for which you have a strong affinity. Just like other churches want their adherents to refrain from drinking alcohol.

John Harville

Read your catechism - as rewritten under protect-pedophile-priests and soon-to-be saint John Paul II.
The Church allows homosexuals to be practicing Catholics with all the Sacraments. It's the same with heterosexuals. Either, however, who engages in sexual relations outside marriage is guilty of the sin of FORICATION.
SCCC by its actions is accusing these men of FORICATION although no one has made an allegation they are unchaste.
The Cathechism does NOT call homosexuality a sin. It does not even say it is a matter of nurture vs nature.

John Harville

"sin is sin!!"

And you'll be casting the second stone? Melody already cast the first - and folks are worried you'll check into her past.


I'm not liberal and I think it sucks.


Rest assured, the Register is going to wring every possible drop of water out of this rag with the hope that their stories on the issue get as many links as possible. They're hitching their wagon to it.....if not promoting it/keeping it in the news themselves.

If they can promote a liberal viewpoint at the same time, well they'll view that as a bonus because that's how they roll. But, first and foremost it's about money, not news. Pretty obvious since they're doing a story that is about people who commented on their stories....



SR beating the gay agenda and the shooting saga are two of the reasons I dropped my hardcopy (my only one) subscription. The other was my budget.


Wrong, JMOP. If you're a teacher, and you've been fired, you'll never get hired again. With anywhere from 50-100 job applicants, you have no chance. His teaching certificate is good in Ohio only, and in Ohio, there are no protections against workplace discrimination for gays. So, in Ohio, he has even less chance of being hired for a teaching position.

This case has huge, national interest, so of course, the Register is going to report on it. At the end of the day, the school is using the Bible as an excuse for discrimination. Jesus wouldn't have approved.


so instead of sticking up for someone's right, let's just sweep this under the rug and let the catholics win. majority rules? b. s. all of you 'go alongs' that let atrocities like this happen daily, let employers have rights but not the employees, you are the problem with this country. new rules are being made daily to take away people's rights and privacy and you all say it's okay, they had a right to do this and it's time to move on are contributing to the hypocrisy. maybe what you were taught growing up is not right; maybe what you believe is a lie. but you won't even consider that because it might rock the boat. one day you're going to fall out of that boat and drown. the Register is not 'playing this way too much'. it's a valid controversy and an infringement of rights. firing someone because of their sexual preference and personal beliefs is wrong and you people that think god is only on your side had better wake up.

Gyro Cart Guy

By my count, this is the third article on this. The Register is after clicks and advertising dollars. I suggest we will see a few more articles on this to keep them coming.

Further, anytime someone googles the popular phrase "Glory Days of Band", this article will pop up. I did hear that the Perkins and Sandusky bands were planning a combo performance, perhaps St. Mary could join. That would truly inspire the Glory Days of band.


Gyro Cart Guy....nice handle by the way. Perhaps we could meet at the cart for a delicious, nutritious gyro. I would invite sugar, freddy and all those commenting here. Share a gyro and some love.

I believe the "Glory Days of Band" were actually when they wore those big 18" high furry hats like the palace guards in London. That, and when Van Halen had a hit with "Jump" on their hands there was no better time for bando's. I've heard the joy of hitting the high notes on your clarinet at the point where David Lee Roth yells JUMP!!! is worth all the hard work.


Gyro I am sure you have had so few social situations of any substance that inviting me in my big fluffy hat would be the highlight of your life. People like you are unimpressive. Sandusky is a small pond...... Oh and I will continue to post. who calls themselves gyro anyway???? lol


How dare you sir. How dare you criticize the combination of lamb's meat and cucumber sauce that so many Sanduskians have come to love just as much as they love the "glory days of band" that my internet adversary Gyrocartguy mentioned.

Why can't you just let people live their life the way they want to live it and eat the delicacies they enjoy without being judged by others. I don't have a contract to eat gyros and only gyros, but I choose to do so because the gyro is our greatest food (in my...and apparently others....opinion). Just let us live our lives, suga.


You're kinda gross. Try another tack this is NOT working for me. Tata

John Harville

"...and eat the delicacies they enjoy..."
Because there are churches who decry certain 'delicacies' - pork, lamb (after all, Jesus is The Lamb of God), beef, anything that chews a cuda, shellfish...