Pompallier College teacher dismissed for gay marriage stance

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In Whangarei, New Zealand,  a teacher at Pompallier College, Nigel Studdart, has been dismissed. He had been suspended on full pay in August after he had supported a protest by students against the principal, Richard Stanton, who had expressed opposition to gay marriage and expressed concerns about gay parenting in the school newsletter.

The Board of Trustees issued a statement to the college community which said: “The Pompallier Catholic College Board of Trustees advises the school community that Nigel Studdart will not be returning to the College as a teacher. We wish him well for the future.”

The chief executive of the New Zealand Catholic Education Board, Pat Lynch, said he would not make comment about this particular case.

“More broadly, Catholic preaching on same sex marriage is part of the church’s moral preaching so if you take up employment in a Catholic School you’re obliged to support the religious and moral preachings because that’s what the school stands for, whether you believe in it or not.”

Sometimes employees had to agree to disagree if they wanted to keep their job, he said.

The teachers’ union, the PPTA, also said it was not its policy to comment on individual cases.

“It’s complicated when teachers take up jobs at schools with special character because it does involve a certain amount of commitment to the principles of that special character – provided they do not breach human rights or provisions under the employment relations act – and there can be tension in the way that operates,” PPTA president Robin Duff said.

Blair Scotland, a senior associate of law firm Chen Palmer specialising in employment matters, said an employer would have trouble justifying drastic action like dismissing someone when it was about a fundamental human right.

“How the employer justifies its actions is going to be key. It’s going to be very difficult for an employer to say ‘this employee’s belief … I don’t agree with and therefore I’m going to impose my views and I’m going to sack this person because of the particular views’,” he said.

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News category: New Zealand.

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