Catholic students plan 'Z-Day' protest | Sex in the Suburbs

Amy Johnson - Contributed
Amy Johnson
— image credit: Contributed

City leaders in Federal Way often look to Bellevue as a model for growth and prosperity, but I bet they do not want to emulate the Eastside right now.

When Mark Zmuda was let go from Eastside Catholic last month after the school was notified he was married to a man, a flurry of conflicting stories hit the media.

In an interview with a former student, Zmuda states that he did not resign; he says he was told he would be terminated. He says he asked directly if he had breached his contract and was told no — it was because he had married a man and violated Catholic teaching.

Eastside Catholic School states Zmuda agreed he would resign and that, since the Catholic Church does not recognize same-sex marriage, the school was “left with no acceptable alternative that would allow him to remain eligible for employment at Eastside Catholic School” once he married a man.

To confuse matters, Zmuda stated in an interview with Joyce Taylor of KING 5 News that a school official told him that if he were to divorce, he could remain employed, and the school would help pay for a commitment ceremony with his partner.

Huh? Is divorce now a good thing if you’re Catholic? Or is it just less of a sin than being married if you’re gay?

The only group of people in this scenario that seems perfectly free of confusion is the Eastside Catholic student body. They have garnered international attention in an attempt to retain their teacher and confront the Catholic Church about its conflicting edicts.

But while Eastside Catholic students find themselves in the spotlight over this issue, gay students back here in Federal Way face discrimination routinely.

Within the last couple of years, a welcome back dance was shut down at one of our local high schools because a same-sex couple came together and derogatory remarks led to a physical fight.

Students at another local high school shared with me their fear to come out to students and staff at their school.

Others say their school’s attempts to form a Gay Straight Alliance club are a joke.  They routinely hear gay slurs from students and do not witness staff intervention.

Not that long ago, at the far end of a hallway, students flung the word “Faggot!” back and forth like a beach ball, loudly and proudly, as I was paying an athletic fee for my son.

With day-to-day school behavior like this being way too common, is it any wonder Zmuda chose to keep his private life, well, private?

Meanwhile, Eastside Catholic students appear to be attempting to bring the Archdiocese of Seattle in line with the Pope’s teachings. Last July, Pope Francis is quoted by the National Catholic Reporter as saying, “Who am I to judge gay people if they are seeking the Lord in good faith?”

And Mr. Zmuda, a self-avowed devout Catholic who got married, seems as likely as anyone to be a person who is seeking the Lord in good faith.

That’s why I hope you’ll join me and others for “Nation Wide Z-Day” on Friday, Jan. 31 and wear orange for solidarity. The event is to “encourage students at Catholic schools or otherwise, as well as any other impassioned individuals, to proudly wear the color orange on that day” to show solidarity with Mark Zmuda and express hope “for an enlightened perspective on issues of sexuality in the Catholic Church.”

God knows, we can all benefit from that.

Amy Johnson, MSW, is a trainer, educator and coach in the Pacific Northwest. She is co-author of the books, “Parenting by Strengths: A Parent’s Guide for Challenging Situations” and “Homegrown Faith and Justice.” Amy facilitates classes and workshops in the Puget Sound area and online. She specializes in working with parents and in sexuality education. Amy can be reached at comments@diligentjoy.com.


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