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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 20, 2013 at 5:11 PM

Eastside Catholic and the exit of vice principal Mark Zmuda

PROTEST FOR VICE-PRINCIPLE FIRING - SAMMAMISH - 121913 Chanting "Change the Church", students walked from Eastside Catholic High School, down their driveway to nearby 228th Ave. SE in Sammamish after and early morning announcement that a popular Vice-principle was fired for marrying his partner.  Students chanted, "Change the Church", shouted and waved to cars on 228th, and after 20 minutes, returned to school. Earlier in the morning after the announced firing, students spontaneously had a sit-in disrupting 1st period.  "It makes me have a lot of faith in my friends", said student, Courtney Houston, standing out on 228th.

Chanting “change the church,” students walked from Eastside Catholic High School, down the driveway to nearby 228th Avenue SE in Sammamish after an early morning announcement on Dec. 19 that a popular vice principal was dismissed.

Friday will be the last day at Eastside Catholic for vice principal and swim coach Mark Zmuda, 38, who joined the staff about a year and a half ago. Whether Zmuda left voluntarily or was forced out, once he married another man his fate at the school was sealed. Eastside Catholic High School says Mark Zmuda’s marriage to his same-sex partner violates Catholic teachings and a contract he signed when he was hired by the school. Students called the rule “totally unfair” and walked out of class in protest on Thursday.

The Seattle Times editorial board writes, “The hearts and minds of many young Catholics are changing. The students’ rebellion should provoke an institution that preaches compassion to also accept that individuals have a right to marry the person they love.”

Readers are writing in on the topic, voicing support for the students or framing gay marriage as anathema to biblical teachings:

To the students of Eastside Catholic: I applaud your expression of love and support for your vice principal [“Catholic school vice principal ousted over his gay marriage,” page one, Dec. 20, 2013].

However, I would urge restraint in your pleas to change church policy. Primarily because your real dispute is not with the church leadership but with the Bible itself.

While some have tried to make the case that the Bible supports so-called gay marriage, it simply isn’t true. You have a real opportunity to demonstrate both love and commitment to principle, even when it may be unpopular.

So-called gay marriage is clearly gaining in cultural acceptance. This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that cultural norms are at odds with biblical principles. However, a basic tenet of the Christian faith is that biblical principles transcend cultural norms. You are fortunate to be at a school that still recognizes and adheres to that foundational principle.

Therefore, you have a choice: to agree with the cultural norm or agree with the Bible. The ultimate rewards of standing on biblical principle far outweigh any temporary accolades you may receive from yielding to cultural pressure. You can expect to the greeted with ridicule, hostility and rejection. But then again, so was Jesus.

— Dan Johnson, Renton

It’s astounding that the Roman Catholic Church, that great teacher of philosophy and logic, fails to see the hypocrisy of its “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to homosexual relationships. Our school-age children, the next great generation, overwhelmingly recognize the fundamental illogic of “It’s OK if you keep it in the closet.”

Combined with our other flaws, it’s no wonder fewer and fewer remain in what has become our “Church of Shame.” I truly hope that Pope Francis has not come too late to ignite a desperately needed renewal and re-commitment to Christ’s goals.

Michael Kidd, Renton

As an Eastside Catholic graduate from the class of 1997, I am extremely disappointed to hear about the firing of vice principal Mark Zmuda from my alma mater.

I know when I was at Eastside, gay students were in attendance, and I’m sure there are gay students in the student body today. What message does this send to the gay students? That they are not wanted? That they must live a life of secrecy, not expressing their true selves? What message does it send to the straight students? That being gay is unacceptable?

I realize that this is an issue that Catholic institutions across the country are struggling with, but Eastside should take into account the recent comments of Pope Francis: “If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, who am I to judge him?”

On the other hand, the leadership at Eastside is clearly overseeing a school with students mature enough to realize that their vice principal, teacher and coach is being wronged, and to protest that action.

Vice principal Zmuda must have been an exceptional person and educator to inspire so much passion in the student body.

Blakely Sullivan, Dorchester, Mass

Comments | More in Catholic Church, Gay marriage | Topics: Eastside Catholic, Mark Zmuda

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