68-year-old Lonnie Billard (pictured) loves teaching. He retired from his job as drama and English teacher at Charlotte Catholic High School in 2012, only to return to work as a longterm substitute teacher, a position he’s held for about two years. Until now.
Just before the new year, Billard received a pink slip informing him that his services would no longer be needed by the school. The reason? Daring to change his relationship status on Facebook to say that he was engaged to a man.
“Apparently there were a couple teachers there who are super-conservative Catholic,” Billard tells qnotes. “They are not friends of mine on Facebook, but they found out about it and escalated it so it got to the diocese.”
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte says it’s not responsible for Billard’s termination, claiming the decision was made by administrators at Charlotte Catholic High School. But Billard disagrees.
“This was not a decision by Charlotte Catholic High School,” Billard insists. “I had talked with one of the administration officials. He knew [about the announcement]. He didn’t care. He said he knew me to be a good teacher and a good person.”
As qnotes points out, this is not the first time the diocese has let go an employee for being gay. In 2012, the diocese canned music director Steav Congdon after it claimed he committed “a public act that is in disobedience to Church teaching” by marrying his male partner.
Billard says he is “terribly hurt” by being suddenly and unexpectedly fired.
“I love to teach,” he says. “I absolutely love to teach and to be denied that opportunity for something that never even enters the classroom was devastating.”
He also says he’s also concerned about the message it sends to LGBT students.
“I know exactly what message it sends,” he says. “I’ve heard from them. It sends the message that they don’t matter.”
“One of the counselors there actually had a kid come into their office after this announcement and asked, ‘Am I going to be expelled because I’m gay?’” Billard continues. “It sends such a destructive and hurtful message to kids, instead of validating them for their beauty and validating them for the love they bring. It tells them they don’t count.”