The Rev. Warren Hall has confirmed that his removal from his position as director of the Office of Campus Ministry was due to the picture he posted on Facebook last fall.
The NoH8 picture he posted on his Facebook that started the controversy, “came from a gathering on anti-bullying of LGBT teens in New York that I attended,” Hall said in an email. “I was aware that the ‘NoH8’ organization also supports marriage equality but that was not the purpose of my attendance.”
He added, “In the fall I posted that picture on my Facebook page with the caption, ‘why can’t we all just get along.’ That was in response to a discussion I was involved with pertaining to the police/racial tension situation at the time.” Hall is referring riots that followed the Ferguson, Mo. grand jury decision not to indict a white officer for fatally shooting an unarmed black man.
According to Hall, the picture was brought up in December at a regularly scheduled meeting with Monsignor Anthony Ziccardi, vice president for Mission and Ministry and a member of the Board of Regents. When asked about this incident, Ziccardi said in an email that as a matter of University policy, he is unable to speak publicly about personnel or employee matters.
“I explained the circumstances about it. He asked that I take it down, which I did. I heard nothing else about it until Archbishop Myers called me Monday (May 11) to say he was removing me from SHU because of the picture,” Hall said.
Jim Goodness, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Newark, denied Hall’s claim and said that he was a part of 700 reassignments planned by the archdiocese, originally speaking to BuzzFeed News. He confirmed that the Archdiocese was aware of the the original post and the tweet and said he could not explain why Hall would believe he was fired for the post. “I am aware that he will be available to start a new assignment in June,” he said in a phone call.
A University spokesman, Dan Kalmanson, the associate vice president for Public Relations and Marketing, said in an email, “Seton Hall is a welcoming and accepting academic community with a diverse array of students, faculty and administrators. We pride ourselves on the close-knit fabric of our community and celebrate, accept and embrace all of our members.”
This is not the first time the Newark Diocese has been conflicted with a Seton Hall faculty member for their public affiliation with LGBT and equality issues.
Dr. King Mott, associate professor of political science, has been with Seton Hall since 1997. He wrote an op-ed to the Star-Ledger in 2005 concerning the Church hierarchy’s discrimination against gay men. The next day he was fired from his position as the associate dean for the School of Arts and Sciences, relocated as an associate professor in the Political Science Department and was forced to take a two-month leave of absence.
“From the perspective of some, (Hall)’s been insubordinate. It doesn’t matter what the official position of the church is. He is seen as advocating for the LGBT people. On a Catholic college campus like Seton Hall, you cannot get away with that,” Mott said.
Students posting on Twitter and Facebook have repeated that firing Hall for posting about equality and antidiscrimination of a certain group is wrong. Some have even criticized the University’s lack of LGBT support on campus.
Junior Demetrius Terry, an openly gay African American male, spoke out about his experience at SHU.
“I honestly was looking for a LGBT club to join to help me transition into the University but unfortunately I couldn’t find one,” he said in an email. “I had to email an individual to find out there was any LGBTQ clubs on campus and they told me yes, it was called Allies.”
Mari Eboli, the former secretary of Allies, said although the club receives a couple hundred dollars in funding from a University source unknown to her, the club is not officially recognized by the Student Government Association.
“In our constitution, we are not allowed to try to become a real club because that goes against the Catholic Mission. All of our events have to be educational events, not promotional,” she said.
Dr. Andrew Bereton, director of special projects in the Division of Student Services and Allies faculty advisor, explained that instead of SGA-recognition, “There is a memorandum of understanding that delineates the relationship between Allies and the Office of the Vice President. That memorandum was negotiated and agreed to by student leaders and university officials about 10 years ago. The Allies e-board renews their commitment to that agreement each year. Under that agreement, Allies is advised by a representative of the Vice President’s office.”
Eboli explained that beyond not being recognized by SGA, the club has to “jump through hoops” about getting events and flyers approved by the administration. To her, the biggest downside to not being able to promote the club is that, “People don’t know that we’re out there and people might be looking for us.”
Eboli knew Hall from seeing him around campus, especially at SGA events and presiding over masses. She said that in his homilies, “He would incorporate the acceptance of all people, no matter what he’s talking about he always brought it back to that. He was the perfect person when I think about someone who is Catholic,” she said.
Terry had similar sentiments. “It saddens me to see not only Fr. Hall but the Seton Hall community get punished because Fr. Hall supports equality. By him not being at Seton Hall, it leaves an empty place in our hearts. One thing that attracted me to come to Seton Hall was the ‘family-like environment.’ Now one of our family members is gone, it’s just not right to me!”
Emily Balan can be reached at email@example.com.