Pupils at a church-run school in Germany protested their administration's decision to backtrack on a job offer to a popular teacher. The gay man's plan to wed his partner left officials with "no other alternative."
Around 600 pupils protested Thursday against their school's decision not to hire a gay teacher at the Gymnasium Mariengarden, a private high school in the town of Borken in western Germany. The students assembled to form a rainbow out of colored balloons alongside a banner that read, "Mariengarden is colorful."
The man had completed his teacher training at the Catholic school and subsequently been offered a job. However, when he told the school principal that he intended to marry his male partner, his offer of employment was withdrawn.
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Church officials responsible for the administration of the school said Wednesday that, "The plan to marry contravenes the church's position on matrimony and family."
"We would have liked to employ him here," school principal Michael Brands said in an interview with the Bild newspaper. "But his decision to marry a man caused me to withdraw the contract. It does not comply with the holy sacrament of marriage. But I think what the students are doing is good. The issue is being talked about openly among us."
Decision leads to outrage
The English and biology teacher had been popular among students.
"We don't want to simply accept that a great teacher can't work here only because wants to marry his partner," 17-year-old student representative Lara Doods told Bild.
The decision to rescind the job offer has been the main topic of discussion in the school since it was made last week. The topic also dominated a pre-planned school party on Sunday, at which the students were encouraged to express their feelings and opinions, news magazine Der Spiegel reported.
The school's administrators, teachers, parents and student representatives wrote in a statement on their website that Mareingarden must remain a place open to discussion. "Many students, teachers and parents are affected, irritated or outraged," it said.
A spokesman for the religious order behind the school, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, said their hands were tied. "We have no other alternative," Christoph Heinemann told the KNA news agency, referring to church labor law.
Germany's constitution grants the Catholic Church to right to hire and fire employees according to their religious laws.
This premise was challenged recently in the case of a doctor at a church-run clinic in Düsseldorf who was fired after getting married a second time. The Catholic Church does not allow divorce. After working its way through the German courts over three years, the European Court of Justice ruled that the man had lost his job due to potential "hidden discrimination."
The decision could influence the relationship between the German state and church-run employers.