Petition asks Bishop Thomas to rehire pregnant Catholic school teacher


MISSOULA, Mont. - Tens of thousands of people are calling on Helena Bishop George Leo Thomas to rehire an unmarried Catholic school teacher from Butte, fired last month when supervisors learned she was pregnant.

The school says Shaela Evenson violated her contract. She'd been a teacher at Butte Central Schools for more than eight years.

Thursday, supporters took a petition to the Bishop Thomas' office, urging him to rehire Evenson.

Bishop Thomas wasn't in the office to formally accept the petition, though he did release a statement.

"I am deeply saddened by these recent events and caught between the values of upholding the catholic identity of our schools, while desiring to provide pastoral outreach and understanding to the teacher. At the end of the day there are no easy answers or facile solutions."

Inside Thomas' office an additional response came from Communications Director Dan Bartleson.

"It's unlikely right now that he would reverse the decision that was made in Butte," said Bartleson.

"Was the decision made in Butte?" asked Montana Catholic and Carroll College graduate Marge Rankin. "I mean it doesn't sound like the person that was administering that school made that decision."

"To speak to the details of what's going on in a personnel matter is not something that we're comfortable with at the Diocese," Bartleson said.

While they didn't get the answer they were hoping for Thursday, Evenson's friend Susan Hawthorne was optimistic.

"Maybe that they will reverse their decision," she said.

And despite the reaction from the Helena Diocese she hopes to make a point. "As the Pope said, we need to have more mercy and less church rules," Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne said Evenson is pursing litigation against the school.