Gay Catholic school teacher ousted; Alter principal
calls it ‘unfortunate’ (Links to an external site.)
April 28, 2020 By Jeremy P. Kelley (Links to an external site.), Staff Writer
Alter High School recently non-renewed the contract of a longtime teacher who is gay,
sparking anger from some in the school community over Catholic policies.
Alter Principal Lourdes Lambert said the contract decision was made by officials at the
Archdiocese of Cincinnati after someone sent a “concern” about the teacher directly to the
office of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr.
Lambert said she was not trying to duck responsibility, saying, “I’m the Archdiocese, too.”
She said she has not been told who the concern came from, but confirmed it had nothing to
do with any incident between the teacher and students at the Kettering school.
She said the teacher — an Alter graduate who has taught at the school for more than 20
years — is finishing out this school year as students continue to learn from home, and the
contract non-renewal is for 2020-21.
“It’s a very unfortunate circumstance for the teacher and the Alter community,” Lambert
said. “Some things are taken out of our hands as an Archdiocese-owned school.”
The teacher declined comment Tuesday and is not being named in this story.
Teachers in Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati schools sign an annual “teacher-minister”
contract that includes an agreement to refrain from any conduct that is “in contradiction to
Catholic social doctrine or morals.”
Examples listed in the contract include “cohabitation outside marriage, sexual activity out of
wedlock and same-sex sexual activity,” among several others. The contract also says
promoting such conduct as being acceptable also is a violation.
Several Alter High School graduates and supporters of the teacher argued on social media
against the removal this week, with one calling the moving hypocritical and another saying
she would stop donating to the school. Others praised the educator’s ability as a teacher,
while one said the teacher displayed “Jesus’ teachings of love and acceptance.”
The school posted a statement on its Facebook page Monday, citing “a great deal of online
and social media discussion” on the issue, and saying the school must “adhere to
Archdiocesan policy.” The post later was taken down.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ruled Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage was
unconstitutional. But according to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, no Ohio law prohibits
employment discrimination based on a person’s status as gay or lesbian.
Jennifer Schack, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese, said the church “values all of our
teachers,” but she would comment only generally about personnel matters.
“Our Catholic schools expect teachers and staff to be witnesses to the teaching of the
Catholic Church in both word and deed. Public witness is a critical part of Catholic
education,” Schack said. “These expectations are clearly articulated in our teacher-minister
Schack provided the Catholic Church’s official catechism, or teaching, which calls
homosexual acts “acts of grave depravity,” and says “under no circumstances can they be
The following passage of the church’s catechism says of people with “homosexual
tendencies” that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided,” but
that the church calls them not to act on their feelings, instead living a life of chastity.
Archbishop writes to Alter families, explains
removal of gay teacher (Links to an external site.)
May 02, 2020 By Jeremy P. Kelley (Links to an external site.), Staff Writer
Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis Schnurr sent a message to the Alter High School community
on Friday afternoon, further explaining the Catholic church’s position on the ousting of gay
teacher Jim Zimmerman.
The letter, while not naming Zimmerman, described him as a “longtime and highly valued
teacher” and acknowledged that the move caused “a great outpouring of sadness and anger.”
Zimmerman’s contract was not renewed for next school year after someone sent his marriage
certificate to the archdiocese. He annually signed the archdiocese’s teacher-minister
contract, which includes an agreement to refrain from any conduct that is “in contradiction
to Catholic social doctrine or morals.”
Schnurr’s letter said the “inherent dignity of every human being” does not mean that all
behavior is to be condoned by the church.
“Behaviors that are not regrettable mistakes but are rather confirmed life choices contrary to
Catholic teaching cannot be offered to young people as a witness to the faith, no matter the
many other outstanding attributes a person may possess,” he wrote. “Sometimes, personal
decisions mean that an individual and an organization are simply no longer compatible —
nothing more, nothing less.”
Zimmerman is an Alter graduate, a 23-year English teacher at the school, and one of the 3%
of teachers nationally who earned National Board Certification status. Dozens of his students
rallied in support of him Friday evening, saying he cared deeply about their futures.
“He teaches us very important lessons, not just about literature or English but about being a
good person, how to stand up for yourself, how to think creatively,” said Alter student
Meredith Russ at the rally. “I think Mr. Zimmerman exemplifies everything it means to be a
teacher and to be a disciple of God.”
Schnurr said the policies guiding archdiocesan schools are informed by “the enduring
teaching of the Catholic church — not by hate, bigotry or homophobia, as some have
The catechism, or enduring teaching, of the Catholic church says of heterosexual people that
“the plan of God regarding man and woman” is that they are called to “an intimate
communion of life and of love in marriage” and told to “be fruitful and multiply.”
Archdiocesan officials said the catechism says gay people are not gay by choice, but they are
not allowed under church law to act on their feelings, instead living a life of chastity because
“Sacred Scripture … presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity.”
Schnurr’s letter goes on to say, “We respect and love all our brothers and sisters because they
and we are each made in the image and likeness of God.”
Schnurr also urged people to stop mean-spirited comments and personal attacks against Alter
Principal Lourdes Lambert and her family, calling them “immoral and unfair.”
“Mrs. Lambert is faithfully fulfilling her responsibility as principal of a Catholic high school
and employee of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati,” Schnurr wrote.
transparency: this is my alma mater. jim zimmerman, the unnamed teacher in this article,
but who is named in other public articles and the change.org petition that is circulating
i'd like you to consider this story and your values:
inclusive of marginalized identities/not concerned with marginalized
valuing private education/valuing public education +
about power ... personal power (the fired teacher, jim) and power of
position (the principal, mrs. lambert) and power of authority (the
archdiocese, rev. schnurr)
WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE?
the teacher? the principal? the archbishop?
............write at least two pages (and single space) addressing what actions you
would take for EACH role
label your paragraphs "the teacher" and "the principal" and "the archbishop" so
it's clear from what role you're talking.........
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