EXCLUSIVE: Parents lead students in LGBTQ protest against Washington state Catholic school after lesbian teacher’s contract not renewed

"Part of the pastor’s role is to determine whether a minister’s public life might not be in alignment with Church teaching, such that the situation poses an insurmountable difficulty to convey the Faith with clarity."

Katie Daviscourt Seattle WA

Students and teachers at St. Luke Catholic School in Shoreline, Washington, staged an LGBTQ protest during mass on Wednesday, flooding the sacred halls of the Church with rainbow pride ribbons and buttons.

The protest was against the Seattle-area school’s Catholic priest, Father Brad Hagelin, after he decided not to renew lesbian Kindergarten teacher Karen Pala's contract over what he called “misalignment with Church teaching.”

At the beginning of Mass, students, faculty members, and parents walked down the aisle and placed flowers tied with rainbow ribbons in front of the altar of Jesus. They also wore LGBTQ pride pins, accessories, and clothing, hoping to convey a strong statement to Fr. Hagelin.

The Mass was in celebration of the "Month of Mary," a Catholic Church tradition in which flowers are put before the altar and beneath the feet of a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Additionally, during the crowning of Mother Mary after Mass, students and teachers moved the flowers from inside the church and set them in front of the statue of Mary on the grounds of the church.

“This is blasphemy,” a parent who wished to remain anonymous told The Post Millennial.

The protest was organized by L.U.K.E for Change, an independent group of families in the St. Luke community who support LGBTQ advocacy. The group was formed in response to the teacher’s contract not being renewed.

“L.U.K.E. volunteers will be on the sidewalk, off St. Luke property, on Wednesday, May 15th @ 9AM handing out flowers tied with a rainbow ribbon. They will also have stickers and pins, as well as extra rainbow ribbons to tie on flower stems. The intention is to make a visual show of our unwavering support for the LGBTQIA+ community, while also honoring the Blessed Mary,” the group stated on its website.

The group has called on the Seattle Catholic Archdiocese to reverse Fr. Hagelin’s decision, claiming that the teacher was the victim of LGBTQ discrimination and was “unjustly” terminated.

“At a Catholic parish, with a Catholic school as one of its ministries, the pastoral staff and teachers hold a unique role that is different from all other community members," said Fr. Hagelin in a statement obtained by The Post Millennial. "Everyone without exception is welcome to worship at Saint Luke and be involved in any and all service and ministry roles except potentially those very few positions that immediately and directly convey the Catholic faith.”

“Those employed in ministerial roles as teachers or catechists are a distinct and the most direct extension of the ministry of the pastor at each particular parish,” he continued. “That is why we review the ministerial covenant and ask teachers to sign it each year. This is to emphasize that sacred trust between pastor and teacher.”

“Part of the pastor’s role is to determine whether a minister’s public life might not be in alignment with Church teaching, such that the situation poses an insurmountable difficulty to convey the Faith with clarity. I say ‘convey’ intentionally and not ‘teach,’ because actions speak louder than words and a teacher ideally not only teaches the faith, but also is seen as fully living it by their students,” explained Fr. Hagelin.

“In these difficult situations, a pastor might find himself unable to sign a new yearly covenant in good conscience,” he concluded.

According to a Change.org petition, the terminated teacher Pala is referred to as "a beloved teacher." The petition claims that her contract was not renewed for the next year "on grounds of her sexual orientation and upcoming marriage to her partner."

Attorney for Pala Alex Hagel, told Komo News: "As a lifelong Catholic devoted to the teachings of her faith, Miss Pala is deeply hurt by Father Brad's decision to end her stellar tenure at St. Luke for no reason other than the fact that she is engaged to a woman."

While the parent who wished to remain anonymous expressed no animosity towards the teacher, they believed the LGBTQ protest inside the walls of the church was distasteful.

"Father Brad has been extremely accepting of same-sex attracted parishioners, teachers, and students, more so than most Seattle parishes I’ve been to. But he's never been afraid to speak hard truths. There is a fundamental lack of understanding of the faith among Catholics in the Archdiocese and a large influx of public school kids looking for a better education who come from non-Catholic families that don't hold Mary in high regard, clearly," the parent said.

"Pride ribbons placed at the feet of Mary and at the altar of Jesus is blasphemy," the parent added.

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She has every right to apply to work at a public or private school which _doesn't_ adhere to Catholic ideology. The very fact that she sought out employment in a place where she knew very well her private affairs were not welcome was because she intended to cause this sort of chaos. Had she wanted to remain there, she could very easily have concealed the fact that she was a lesbian. That she didn't shows that this whole spectacle was orchestrated. She deserves no sympathy whatsoever, the same way that I, as a Catholic, would deserve no sympathy for teaching the Catholic faith in a secular, public institution.

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