Barbara Webb, the honors chemistry teacher who lost her Marian High job after telling administrators she is expecting a child with her same-sex spouse, will be among those holding signs Sunday morning near the school entrance.
"I look forward to meeting many of you tomorrow," she posts Saturday afternoon at a Facebook support group with nearly 3,000 members.
"I have faith that Marian, with your help, can be the change and perhaps lead the way for others in the future. The alumnae have clearly demonstrated their strength and abilities to take action for justice. I hope that Marian will continue to raise children into women of justice.
In a post at the rally event page, where 120 people indicate they'll attend, organizer Amanda McVety stresses Saturday: "We are not here to agitate, we are here to start the discussions to improve Marian's policies."
This demonstration is a peaceful act of civil disobedience. Our intentions are to raise awareness of the injustice committed by the Marian administration, spread the message of love, peace, and acceptance of human diversity, and inspire the powers that be to join us by "being the change." . . .
We will be visible in the front of the school ONLY -- we will not be disrupting the masses.
Earlier update, Friday evening:
Worshipers at two Marian High masses this Sunday will be reminded of a controversy swirling around the Bloomfield Hills school.
Backers of recently dismissed chemistry teacher Barbara Webb, a lesbian mother-to-be, plan a "demonstration of solidarity" near the entrance on Lahser Road. The "peaceful and prideful" rally was announced late Friday on a Facebook event page.
Our voices are no doubt being heard on social media. Now it's time to bring it to the road -- Lasher Road, really!
Join us at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, September 7, in the front grassy area of Marian High School. Please come with signs of support of Barb Webb, equality, love, justice and all things wonderful. . . .
We will be visible during the dismissal of 8 a.m. mass (held in the MHS auditorium), the arrival and dismissal of 10 a.m. mass, and perhaps stay longer if the spirit moves us.
We want to be a positive force with a strong message: We value human diversity, just as the Marian mission statement so eloquently expresses.
The school is about a half-mile north of West 14 Mile Road, east of Telegraph Road. The "Stand for Barb Webb" event will take place even if it rains, the coordinator posts.
Sunday's main organizer is Amanda McVety, who graduated from Marian in 2002 as Amanda Rudd. She's a certified teacher with an elementary education degree from the University of Michigan. McVety works for Eastern Michigan University as an after-school program site coordinator.
Original article, Friday morning:
A growing number of Catholic school graduates across the country are speaking out against the abrupt dismissal of a Bloomfield Hills chemistry teacher who expects a baby wither the same-sex partner she married in 2012.
Barbara Webb, who worked for nine years at Marian High, told the Detroit Free Press and New Republic she was fired two weeks ago because the "the public, visible nature of a pregnancy" conflicts with the parochial school's morality clause barring a “lifestyle or actions directly contradictory to the Catholic faith."
Her termination is a flashpoint for gay and lesbian rights groups, as well as for Catholic school alumnae who say it contradicts lessons about equality, tolerance and compassion.
"Marian High School is named for a lady with an unconventional pregnancy," Liz Meyer of Birmingham notes on Facebook.
"For the first time in my life, I felt ashamed to be a part of the Marian community," alumna Amy Copeland Plavnick, 38, posts Thursday night from Ann Arbor. "While I still say shame on you Marian, I have to say that I am incredibly proud of the Marian community who has spoken out against this injustice. That is the Marian I remember."
The crusade has a hashtag (#IStandWithBarbWebb), a change.org petition started by a British lesbian and a large Facebook group. The issue was discussed Thursday by three panelists on Fox 2 News (see video below).
"This is a fight that Marian can't win," says Allison Medlin, a 1997 graduate now raising a family in North Carolina. "Even if they 'win' a right to discriminate based on morality clauses, they still lose. They have angered and alienated their students, teachers, alumni and parents to a degree that is irreparable if they don't change course."
She's among those commenting on a new Facebook group started by 31-year-old Los Angeles teacher Rachel Kopera, whose last name was Chapman when she lived in Sylvan Lake and graduated from Marian in 2001. "Marian has always been about promoting diversity and fighting social injustice,” she tells Jay Grossman of the Birmingham Eccentric.
“I didn’t start this page to bash Marian. I started this because I believe in Marian. I don’t think the administration fully realizes how wrong this is. ...
“I feel like I know her,” Kopera said of Webb. “I put in tons of hours like she did . . . and I know she’s making a lot less working at Marian than she would if she worked at a public school. If you had such a priceless teacher, why on earth would you fire her?"
Kopera's group, I Support Barb Webb, climbed above 2,000 members Friday morning. Participants include senior citizen Tootie McBride of Beverly Hills, who posts:
I am 86 years old and I sent all of my daughters to Marian [Maureen, '71; Hillary, '78]. My granddaughter [Claire] graduated from Marian in 2009. ... I am disappointed that Marian's administration is so small-minded.
It is 2014. The Pope has instructed Catholics to embrace all people. Why is it so difficult for Marian to be happy for Ms. Webb and her growing family?
A particularly poignant posting about faith and acceptance comes from 21-year-old Western Michigan University junior Madeline (Maddie) Reed, a 2011 graduate of Ladywood High in Livonia:
As an LBGT graduate of another all-girls Catholic school and a strong believer in my Catholic faith, I have faced many situations where people have said that I am less than worthy due to my sexual orientation, and that I should not be able to practice my faith, nor receive the Eucharist because of my identity. . . .
It says right in the New Testament, that the greatest commandment is nothing more than love. Pure and simple. That is the ultimate teaching of Christianity.
Participants in the passionate online discussion include Hilary Levey Friedman, a Marian graduate who grew up in West Bloomfield and now is a Harvard University sociology researcher and writer. She authored this week's New Republic article, headlined "Catholic Schools Are Brazenly Firing Pregnant Lesbian Teachers."
These are among other Facebook posts:
- As a '96 grad and an "unconventional mother" myself (single parent adoption), I am ashamed and embarrassed of my alma mater's decision. -- Katie Pendzich, Milwaukee
- There are many Mercy alums who also #StandWithBarbWebb I came out in high school, and was blessed to have a lot of support from classmates and teachers alike. We need more teachers like Barb Webb. -- Dana Piccoli, Westchester, N.Y.
- I am a 1974 grad of Marian. This situation makes me sad and ashamed to be an alumnus of Marian I have also been an 8th grade teacher at one of their feeder schools and I will go out of my way to discourage any of my students from choosing Marian as their school. -- Barbara Piper Dunham
- Isn't it funny, they taught us these vaules and now we are using them! -- Stefanie Sertich (Marian '94), Queens, N.Y., community college associate professor
- As a lesbian, I am very, very moved by this outpouring of support for Barb Webb from all you amazing people. . . .You are the change, and this campaign/Facebook group has restored my faith in the world! Marian sounds like a great school -- let's hope they see sense! -- Verity Flecknell, London (U.K.), originator of change.org petition.
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