Free to Believe

Patricia Jannuzzi

Immaculata High School: Somerville, New Jersey

On March 13, 2015, Patricia Jannuzzi, a religion teacher at Somerville, New Jersey's Immaculata High School, was suspended after writing a Facebook post expressing her personal views about the nature of homosexuality, the crassness of some gay activists, and the value of marriage.

When Dr. Ben Carson made comments about homosexual behavior being a choice and became the target of crass criticism from gay activist Dan Savage, Jannuzzi posted a frustrated comment on Facebook: "They [advocates of same-sex marriage] want to reengineer western civ into a slow extinction. We need healthy families with a mother and a father for the sake of the children and humanity!"

Former Immaculata students, including the self-identified gay nephew of actress Susan Sarandon and a cast member of "Real Housewives of New Jersey," took to social media indicating their disapproval of Jannuzzi's opinion. The "Real Housewives" cast member Greg Bennett tweeted a screenshot of her Facebook post with the comment, "This nightmare dumpster human taught me in high school, and still teaches there. Keep it classy, Immaculata."

An online petition targeting Jannuzzi and "demanding that hate speech is eradicated from our Immaculata Family" garnered over 1,000 signatures. Principal Jean Kline and other school officials placed Jannuzzi on administrative leave, required her to deactivate her Facebook page, and in a letter to parents, alumni, and students indicated that Jannuzzi's posts were "completely inconsistent with our policy and position as a Catholic Christian community."

With the possibility of unemployment looming, Jannuzzi's two sons launched an online fundraiser asking friends to help defray upcoming expenses: "Our family is about to lose our health benefits. Our mother has recently and successfully battled breast cancer without missing a single day of teaching, except for the day of her operation. Health benefits are important to our family... Due to the overwhelming attacks in the media on her statement of Catholic belief, we do not believe she will be able to find another teaching position."

On April 10, school officials noted that Jannuzzi would be reinstated and that her suspension had been a "personnel and not a theological issue." According to Principal Kline, the school and the teacher remained "united in [their] understanding and commitment to the teachings of the Catholic Church."

In light of Jannuzzi's reinstatement, her attorney indicated that financial support, while appreciated, was no longer needed and would be returned to donors.

Photo credit: © Patricia Jannuzzi