Lawmakers to San Fran Archbishop: Drop Morality Clauses for Teachers

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. (photo: Lauren Cater/CNA)

A group of California lawmakers asked Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco to remove "morality clauses" from a proposed contract for teachers in high schools under his jurisdiction, reported the Los Angeles Times.

The new language in the contracts direct teachers in four archdiocesan high schools to avoid public statements or actions that oppose Church teaching on contraception, pre-marital sex or homosexual relationships. My story on the proposed change in contract language is here.

In their letter to the archbishop, the California lawmakers argued that the morality clauses "conflict with settled areas of law and foment a discriminatory environment in the communities we serve."

Specifically, the lawmakers argue that the archdiocese should not designate all teachers within the schools as "ministers."  This designation, they charge, will lead to the violation of the teachers' civil rights, because the so-called "ministerial exception" permits church-affiliated institutions broad rights to address employee issues.

At issue is the U.S. Supreme Court's 2012 landmark free exercise case, Hosanna Tabor, which ruled in favor of a Lutheran school in an employment dispute. See SCOTUSblog's opinion recap here.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the letter was drafted by Democratic Assemblymen Phil Ting of San Francisco and Kevin Mullin of San Mateo. The letter was signed by lawmakers from communities where the four Catholic high schools are based.

Earlier this month, the archdiocese unveiled the proposed contract language as well as new language in a teacher handbook for the 2015-2016 school year. 

At the time, church officials emphasized that teachers had nothing to fear.

“There is absolutely nothing new in the contract. We are saying the same thing as before; we are just being clearer about it,” Father John Piderit, an archdiocesan official, told me. 

“The only thing that is different is that secular society has changed.”

The teachers’ contracts that are already in use, he noted, feature two clauses that affirm the Catholic identity and mission of the school.

“The additional clauses simply affirm that the main purpose of the school is to proclaim Christ and his mission through the Church. That is the reason it exists.”