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.



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

(1) Can someone please clarify how exactly this is presented in the contract? Is it a blanket statement, are specifics listed, etc.?

(2) What are current students doing about this situation? Are any of them taking action?


living a lifestyle according to the catholic faith can be interpreted differently by many. some believe women should not use birth control. others believe that being gay is wrong. whatever you believe, you cannot be a good christian and discount others at all. you cannot say we all must believe as you do or be shunned. it's hypocrisy at its highest level. really you should do some research on the bible and the catholic religion to see it for what it really is: hogwash.


"whatever you believe, you cannot be a good christian and discount others at all. you cannot say we all must believe as you do or be shunned. it's hypocrisy at its highest level. really you should do some research on the bible"

Maybe YOU should. The Bible is very clear that you SHOULD shun those who are apostate. It is very clear on expelling those who are not in accord with the beliefs of the church.

John Harville

Please give New Testament citations to support your 'shun' statements.

Where is it very clear on expelling?
Be specific or I'm going to insist this post be taken down as blatantly false.


think again and lor70 said it all for me.

Bottom Line

Completely agree. He violated the terms of his contract/morals clause. So he was no longer welcome. So very simple.


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

Can someone please clarify how exactly this is presented in the contract? Is it a blanket statement, are specifics listed, etc.?

John Harville

AND AGAIN I say.... is the contract/language valid/legal? THAT is the 'bottom line'.


"AND AGAIN I say.... is the contract/language valid/legal? THAT is the 'bottom line'."

Gee, John, you're the one who's spouting all over the place about Constitutional Rights - one of the basic ones is freedom to contract as one pleases.

John Harville

Where is THAT in the Constitution?

You don't like to make citations, do you?


He's killing you nemesis!

liz garland's picture
liz garland

I for one congratulate Sandusky Register for keeping this story in the News! There is an overwhelmingly large LGBT community in Sandusky (for such a small town) but yet there is also an overwhelmingly large conservative, religious community opposing and fighting them every step of the way. It is sickening in today's day and age that Sandusky continues to be as pretentious in its conservative beliefs! Many would sooner ignore the fact that an LGBT community exists and flaunt their religion and morals like a peacock! Sadly, there is also a large concentration of LGBTs in neighboring Fremont but 'many' of them are married, engaged, closeted for pure fear of their religion and 'moralistic' pretension that surrounds them. Attention must be paid. These stories need to be told! We can't let fear and pure ignorance overrun our media. Expose the morals of the church for what they are. Expose Sandusky and Fremont's pure ignorance of LGBT issues. Let us learn 'together' from this and become a much more enlightened and progressive community! Love is matter if it's male and male, female and female or male and female.


I don't know Liz- what does your "much more enlightened and progressive community look like?" Will it be men in thongs sporting sex toys - and women completely naked walking the streets like in San Fran? Will it be open sex acts during LGBT parades like in San Fran? And you dare talk about the "low morals of the Church"- give me a break... Your little dream world is one of total debauchery.


debauchery INDEED!
Pope wears prada. Devil wears prada.
Catholic church has no moral ground, just more BS like we've had for hundreds of years. See what I mean?
I went to catholic church and the priests were absolute alcoholic creeps.


Did I ever say I was Catholic?

John Harville

Why not? It should be a really great sight what with all the open-carry guntoters with their AK47s strapped on and the DD guys with their heavy beards and camo and guns and the holyrollers thumping their Bibles on street corners and the TeaBaggers with their Obama/Hitler posters and teabags stapled to their hats and their snaky flags of rebellion... Bring it all.


Marching to the Marxist tune again? AK47's are a soviet weapon, Thats the weapon the leftist used to murder millions. Don't you know your own history?

John Harville

And the pictures just were posted on FOX NEWS of men with the guns strapped on their backs walking into a bookstore with children.

If I cited the wrong weapon, so what? The point remains that we should not be shocked by sex toys and thongs etc. when we sit in a bar with guys wearing their open-carry guns and their barely C/C weapons.


So, should we start rescinding rights and privileges to all the hetero community because there are a few who like to practice BDSM and since most of those who commit child sexual abuse identify as hetero?

Ohio isn't Folsom Street Fair, KS, and I highly doubt it will *ever* be. Holding an entire community accountable for the actions of a few of the outliers shows nothing more than anti-gay animus.

John Harville

Cunnilingus also is 'against Catholic Family Values'... something for which I can't imagine any homosexual being indicted.


I agree with Liz. As with every other attempt to gain equal rights for a minority group, conservatives always are on the wrong side of the argument. They were against civil rights for minorities, equal rights for women, and equal rights for the LGBT commmunity. They are unable and/or unwilling to show empathy for anyone who isn't "like them".

It's sadly telling that conservatives are only able to show empathy when someone in their immediate family identifies as one of those minorities (Dick Cheney w/gay daughter, Rob Portman w/gay son). Until it becomes personal, they can be counted on for a "hand in the face"... Jesus absolutely would have been a Liberal/Democrat, you know?


Against civil rights?
Civil rights Bill- Democrats filibustered the thing.
Equal rights for women-Democrats across the board tried to kill suffrage.
Equal rights for the LGBT community- Clinton signed DOMA.
Please read some history, Your bias is showing.


You're right, Donegan, but you're smart enough to know that the Democratic party was very different back then (other than when Clinton signed DOMA - we'll get to that). If my history class memory hasn't failed me, the modern Democratic party didn't really form until the mid-1920's and didn't hit it's stride until FDR was elected president in the '32 (maybe '34?). During the 60's, the South was still strongly Democratic, but the politics of the South were still very corrupt and very conservative. It was these Southern Democrats that filibustered the Civil Rights Bill (in fact, at this time I believe Strom Thurman was still listed as a Democrat!). Your facts are correct, but I have a feeling that you know the history behind them.

Clinton's signage of DOMA into law was strictly a politically-based decision, and one that he regretted. He was afraid of losing his re-election if he didn't sign it after the uproar of Don't Ask Don't Tell." And don't get me wrong, I love Clinton, but I don't agree with "selling out" in order to get re-elected. Since then, and maybe out of guilt for signing the bill into law, he has led the charge of equal rights for the LGBT community.


I do know the history behind my statement Obviously a blanket statement by the one I was responding to is factually inaccurate and the spin does not fit. As for civil rights, This admin defends not only domestic spying But the killing of citizens without trial.(Bush made a lot of these policy's yet Obama has renewed or stregnthened them) As for Clinton and DOMA, Clinton put politics in front of citizens rights. This in my view puts him in league with some of the worst you could name. Maybe it is time for the apologist and attackers from these two parties to find a new party that defends civil rights instead of legislating them away for the sake of political survival.


DOMA was repealed.


It would never have had to be repealed if Clinton did not sign it. So much for the "Democrats are for civil rights" Idea. Maybe if people would quit electing the same two parties that create the mess they would not have to use those same messes as talking points about what they want to fix huh?

John Harville

Clinton signed DOMA with a Republican Congress which had a veto-proof majority.


His name is at the bottom. Get a clue.


So people can't change? Simply saying "he signed it" misses the point that "cultures change, and people change: we're not all static." Like it was mentioned earlier, and was clearly deflected: the culture 20 years ago was repulsively toxic for LGBs, with a marriage-equality approval rating of 20%, at best. Had Clinton been as progressive on the idea of integration of LGBT persons into the military as he wanted, it would have been the death knell to his political career.

In short, we were pretty much persona non grata to the general public (what with coming off the HIV crisis just a bit more than 10 years prior) and the lack of really good academic research on the communities...there was really nothing to use to beat back the misinformation.


Lets take a quote from the original post I was responding to. "They were against civil rights for minorities, equal rights for women, and equal rights for the LGBT commmunity." Please explain how this is correct?
That fact is Clinton with DOMA put his personal political carrer above that of citizens. Anyone who respected the citizens would not have signed that trash for all the elections on the planet if they were serious about wanting equal rights. It is weird to see those who proclaim how much the Democrats are for civil rights defend Clinton and his signing of that. Guess you have yet to learn that THEIR political agenda and careers are worth more than the citizens they supposedly work for. Get a clue and quit defending politicians based upon party. It sicking.