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21,000 sign petition to urge bishop to rehire pregnant teacher

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Feb 25 2014 10:32:59 PM MST
BUTTE, Mont. -

A group plans to bring a petition with more than 20,000 signatures to the Catholic Diocese of Helena, asking for a teacher at Butte Central Catholic School to get her job back, after she was fired for being pregnant and unwed.

National online Christian group 'Faithful America' has been gathering thousands of signatures for a petition, hoping to get former Butte teacher Shaela Evenson her job back.

It reads, "Firing an unmarried teacher for becoming pregnant is cruel and hypocritical. Give Shaela Evenson her job back and start taking pope Francis's words about love and healing more seriously."

"My first reaction was you have your own choice," said Butte parent Jim Pantoja, "you should have your own choice whether you give life or not."

Pantoja said when he heard about the petition, he agreed with what it said. His kids went to Butte Central where Evenson taught.

"We sent them there to learn about God and to learn morals," he said.

But, he said he still thinks the school was in the wrong to fire her.

Evenson taught literature and P.E. to sixth, seventh, and eighth graders at Butte Central for more than eight years. But then in early February, she was fired after she became pregnant because she wasn't married.

"There's nothing wrong with Central at all," Patoja said, "but as far as what kind of choices they made, I think they should have not done that to the woman."

But that's not how the superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Helena sees it, saying her pregnancy violated Evenson's contract.

School officials said that contract requires teachers respect the moral and religious teachings of the Catholic church, at work and at home.

Resident Shannon Kritz said she agrees with the school sticking with their standards, saying "since it's a private school and they want to teach Christian values, I can see their line of reasoning."

Former student Mollie Egan said students were sad to see Evenson go, and said firing her might not be sending the right message to the kids.

"I think it teaches not to do that," she said, "but it also kind of teaches them to not accept people who do that in a way."

Butte residents said they are interested to see what will come from the petition.

"I think she really deserves that job back," Egan said. "She was one of the best teachers there. She taught us so much in a short amount of time."

So far, the petition has more than 21,000 signatures. Faithful America plans to deliver the petition to the Diocese of Helena on Thursday morning.