Keith Kozak, a campus minister at Cleveland State University, was shocked when his interaction with a friend’s same-sex marriage post on social media led to him being fired from his job.
Kozak, who identifies as a gay man, had previously kept his sexuality secret from his employers, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. “I didn’t feel comfortable doing it,” he told the media, “But I also thought it really wasn’t important at the time.”
Kozak had been in the process of applying for a promotion when he was called to speak to supervisors. Believing the meeting was concerning his application, he was surprised when his supervisor, along with a representative from Human Resources, instead brought up his social media activity. Aware of the rules and standards of who he was working for, Kozak said: “I never posted anything that, in my opinion, would’ve been controversial in any way.”
“They sat me down and they said we had seen some things on Facebook and Twitter and would like to talk to you about that.” They had a problem with the fact that Kozak had ‘liked’ a Facebook post by a friend celebrating his five year wedding anniversary with his husband. They also brought up a post by Kozak from the previous year with photographs of him at another same-sex wedding. The very next day after the short meeting Kozak “received a letter that said I was terminated”.
Despite this extreme reaction, it seems that legally, Kozak may not have a leg to stand on. Due to a “ministerial exception” clause, disgruntled clergy members are blocked from making discrimination claims. The Diocese even responded to questions by stating they were confident an appropriate decision had been made regarding the dismissal of the minister.
While it has not affected Kozak’s faith, the events have proved to be eye opening. “It’s a wake up call for me. I didn’t really realize the Catholic Church would act like this. It really feels discouraging that this is still happening.”
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