A lesbian seeking to become the girl’s lacrosse coach at a Chicago-area Catholic school will reportedly be reinstated after students, parents and alumni protested the school’s decision to rescind a job offer after learning she is married to a woman.
Amanda Kammes was reportedly offered the head coaching position at her alma mater two weeks ago. She had previously coached lacrosse at multiple schools in Pennsylvania — including Abington High School, where she led the school’s team to two state titles — and served as an assistant coach at the University of California-Davis.
Most recently, she coached at Montini Catholic High School in Lombard, Illinois, while also running the Lakeshore Lacrosse program for female athletes in Chicago.
“She is a highly qualified person for this job,” Colleen Savell, the assistant lacrosse coach at Benet Academy, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
But trouble began after Kammes was filling out paperwork related to the job, despite having previously offered the position of girls’ lacrosse coach and passing a background and references check.
Kammes, who is married to a woman, listed her wife as an emergency contact on a school form, prompting Benet Academy to rescind the job offer.
Savell took to social media to pen a Facebook post about the school’s decision and urging people to contact the Head of School to urge him to reverse the decision.
“Every year, we have around 60 girls that try out for the Benet Lacrosse team and every year I am so inspired to see such an outstanding group of female athletes show up to represent the school. I NEVER want anyone to feel like they are marginalized because of who they are,” Savell wrote. “Everyone should feel comfortable to be themselves, especially when they are fully qualified for a job.”
News of the school’s decision spread quickly across social media platforms, prompting calls to the school, which emailed a statement to Benet families explaining its decision.
“Benet Academy respects the dignity of all human beings to follow their conscience and to live lives of their choosing,” Jamie Moss, a Benet spokeswoman, said in the email. “Likewise, as a Catholic schAool, we employ individuals whose lives manifest the essential teachings of the Church in order to provide the education and faith formation of the young people entrusted to our care.”
Courts, including the Supreme Court, have previously ruled that religiously-affiliated schools are allowed to discriminate in hiring, despite local or state laws prohibiting discrimination, under something known as the “ministerial exception,” in which religious institutions can demand that its agents or employees fulfill a role as “ministers” by helping to uphold or spread the tenets of the faith by personal example.
However, a court in North Carolina ruled two weeks that a Catholic school wrongfully fired a substitute teacher for entering into a same-sex marriage, on the grounds that the position was not involved with the propagation of the Catholic faith, and that the substitute was explicitly advised by administrators to refrain from weighing in on religious topics or doctrinal matters.
On Sunday, a day before the school’s board was scheduled to meet to discuss the situation, Head of School Stephen Marth issued a statement acknowledging the outrage over the school’s decision to rescind the job offer to Kammes, but insisting that its actions were consistent with Catholic Church teaching, which opposes same-sex marriage.
Supporters of Kammes, who held a rally, complete with rainbow masks, outside the school prior to the board meeting, argued that the position of lacrosse coach, unlike other full-time employees, was not relevant to the propagation of Catholic faith, and that Kammes’ stellar qualifications and record of success make her the best candidate to coach lacrosse — an extracurricular activity — at the school.
Students and alumni also created an online petition calling for Kammes to be reinstates and for Benet to implement new, more inclusive policies. As of Monday night, the petition had attracted more than 4,000 online signatures.
But in a surprise twist, on Monday night, Benet Academy’s board determined that Kammes’ background and experience “made her the right candidate for the position,” the school said in a statement released the following day, according to the Chicago Tribune.
“We had an honest and heartfelt discussion on this very complex issue at our meeting,” it said. “Going forward we will look for opportunities for dialogue in our community about how we remain true to our Catholic mission while meeting people where they are in their personal journey through life. For now, we hope that this is the first step in healing the Benet community.”
Savell, the assistant coach whose social media post brought the controversy to the public’s attention, celebrated the school’s decision, writing on Facebook: “AMANDA HAS BEEN REINSTATED!!!!! Wow — so proud of the girls lacrosse team, parents and the Benet community. Make sure your voice is heard and ALWAYS speak up for what is right.”
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