Bay Area lawmakers urge SF archbishop to remove discriminatory language from teacher contract 

As the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Catholic teachers union continue to iron out details of a controversial contract proposed this month, Bay Area lawmakers have spoken out against certain language in the contract.

On Tuesday, eight politicians — including state. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and assemblymen Phil Ting and David Chiu, also Democrats from San Francisco — sent a letter to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone urging The City's highest Catholic official to remove language from his proposed faculty handbook and contract that some consider discriminatory.

The proposed changes require high school educators to align with Catholic teachings in their professional and public lives. Catholic leaders have emphasized that the contract and handbook do not contain new requirements and simply clarify existing expectations.

But local politicians fear the morality clauses "conflict with settled areas of law" and promote a discriminatory environment, sending "an alarming message of intolerance to youth," according to the letter.

The contract also refers to teachers as ministers, which some educators fear could potentially strip them of their legal rights. Politicians in Tuesday's letter echoed that concern.

"When paired with the reclassification of all school employees as 'ministers' through ongoing collective bargaining, the morality clauses effectively remove civil rights protections guaranteed to all Californians," the statement reads. "Faculty who violate them would have no recourse for subsequently getting fired."

Union leaders are continuing to negotiate the contract with the Archdiocese of San Francisco that affects four Catholic high schools in the Bay Area, including two in San Francisco.

"We appreciate all the support and we're working hard ... on a mutually beneficial resolution," said Michael Vezzali, chairman of the English department at Archbishop Riordan High and the union's treasurer.

Meanwhile, a vigil is scheduled at St. Mary's Cathedral today, which is Ash Wednesday, in support of Catholic teachers, students and staff in the archdiocese.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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