Diocese of Oakland Sparks Controversy with Teacher Contract Morality Clause

More than 1,200 teachers at schools in the Oakland Diocese will have to abide by church teachings in and out of the classroom, according to a contract clause that has sparked controversy.

The contract clause calls for teachers "to model and promote behavior in conformity with the teaching of the Roman Catholic faith in matters of faith and moral...and to do nothing that tends to bring discredit to the school or to the Diocese of Oakland."

"So here we have our bishop in the Oakland diocese telling the teachers in his 54 Catholic schools, sign this pledge as part of your contract or you might not be employed next year," Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner said.

Skinner on Friday joined other officials and parents who said the contract for Catholic school teachers is going too far.

"That's what's troubling," said Denise Pinkston, a mother of a Bishop O'Dowd student. "It's that they are extending from an employment environment into people's private lives and in this country we have a right to privacy and although it may not apply to private parochial schools, it should."

The clause has brought up fears teachers could be fired for going against church doctrine, especially when it comes to contraception, having premarital sex or marrying someone of the same sex. Officials said 18 percent of teachers in the Diocese of Oakland are not Catholic.

Mike Brown, spokesman for the Diocese of Oakland, said the clause was trying to clarify language from the 2013 contract, which does not delineate between a teacher's professional and personal life.

"It is not a desire or an attempt by the diocese to attempt to delve into someone's personal life," Brown said. "It is a strong attempt to clarify what it means to be a Catholic school, what it means to be a teacher in a Catholic school."

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