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Debating morality clauses and teacher classification at Bay Area Catholic schools

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Teachers and parents at four Catholic high schools in the Bay Area are at odds with the Archdiocese of San Francisco after Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone proposed “morality clauses” be added to the school handbooks and changes be made to the way teachers are classified under their labor contract, which is currently being negotiated.

Under the “morality clauses,” teachers wouldn’t be able to publicly challenge the church’s teachings that things like same-sex marriage, stem cell research, masturabation, and pornography are “gravely evil.” He is also seeking to reclassify teachers at the affected high schools as “ministerial” employees, which could exempt them from protection from federal anti-discrimination laws in the event that they were terminated or let go.

More than 350 teachers and staff members at the four high schools have signed a petition opposing the Archbishop’s proposals. San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors has also passed a formal resolution asking him to respect the rights of the teachers, students, and staff of the high schools.

Does the Archdiocese have the legal precedent to do this under state law? What about under the constitution? How are parents, teachers, and students reacting?


Father Mark Doherty, chaplain at Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory School in San Francisco, one of the high schools that would be affected by the Archbishop’s proposals.

Michael Vezzali, chair of the English Department at Archbishop Riordan High School, one of the San Francisco high schools that would be affected by the Archbishop’s proposals.

Rick Garnett, Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, specializing in freedom of speech, association, and religion.