Gay teacher petitions for rehiring at Merion Catholic school

Charles Mostoller

A Catholic school educator and her supporters delivered 23,000 petitions to rehire her at the school that let her go in June after learning she was in a same-sex marriage.

“We ask for full inclusion at the table and in the church,” said Margie Winters, the former director of religious education at Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion. “We ask now for a moratorium on firing any LGBT employee until there can be a conversation about this with the voices of the LGBT community at the table.”

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia responded that they have no influence over the decision.

“The basis of the petition itself is problematic,” said spokesman Ken Gavin in a statement. “As has been noted several times, Waldron Mercy is a private Catholic school and does not fall under the administrative purview of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It’s wrong for any individual or group to perpetuate the falsehood that the Archbishop interfered with the school’s personnel decisions.”

“That being said, Archbishop Chaput continues to fully support the decision made by the leadership of Waldron Mercy. He remains grateful to the Religious Sisters of Mercy and to the principal and board members of Waldron Mercy for taking the steps to ensure that the Catholic faith is presented in a way fully in accord with the teaching of the Church. Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief. The petition being presented does not change that stance.”

But Winters claims she was only fired after the Archdiocese became aware she was in a gay marriage.

“The school and the sisters of Mercy had me in this position for eight years and it wasn’t until the diocese was notified that something changed,” she said.

Winters also said the school knew about her sexual orientation when she was first hired.

“I think Margie Winters represents the essence of Catholicism, more so than the Catholic church at this point,” said Amy Kothari, of Ardmore, a mother of a Waldron student, who cited Winters’ outreach to the poor and disadvantaged. She was a volunteer at the Catholic Worker Free Clinic in Kensington.

“To be able to terminate somebody because of their sexual preference or their life decisions and to deem them unfit to teach my children is really unacceptable,” Kothari said, mentioning thatdecisions like divorce or the use of contraception would be unlikely to get a person fired.

Another supporter called Winters’ firing a “gross injustice.”

“What happens when you’re a gay child in that school? What’s the message now? if you’re a gay child in that school? Sit down and shut up, because if you let people know, if you’re public, you lose your job. Oh, that’s an America I want to be a part of,” supporter Kathleen Gibbon Schuck, 59, of Blue Bell, said sarcastically.

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