SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Questions about sexuality and spirituality have begun swirling on the campus of Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey – following what some have called the firing of a well-known reverend.
As CBS2’s Scott Rapoport reported, the religious controversy erupted on the campus of the Roman Catholic University after the Rev. Warren Hall claimed he was dismissed.
“It’s growing and blowing up,” said Seton Hall junior Alessandra Messina.
Hall, the director of the school’s campus ministry, said he was fired for expressing his support on Facebook for the California LGBT advocacy group NOH8.
The group was formed in response to Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage by popular vote in California in 2008 – after it had already been legalized.
“I’ve been fired from SHU for posting a pic on FB supporting LGBT ‘NOH8,’” Hall said on Twitter. “I’m sorry it was met with this response. I’ll miss my work here.”
The Archdiocese of Newark appointed Hall to his position at Seton Hall. Archdiocese director of communications Jim Goodness said Hall’s actions were out of line with church law.
“The promotion of same-sex unions is in conflict with Catholic teaching,” he said.
But Goodness said Hall was not fired or dismissed, but rather was being assigned to another post. He said that happened a few weeks ago, before Hall posted on social media.
Goodness would not specify where Hall was being reassigned, but he did concede that the reasoning behind it was essentially the same as Hall claimed.
“No priest can or should be promoting that,” Goodness said.
The decision has raised eyebrows and some ire at the school.
“To just fire somebody for their views – it’s not right,” said junior Emerick Martin.
“I have my own personal beliefs on the matter, and I just kind of keep them closer to the chest,” said senior Chris Amnott.
CBS2 is told a petition to support Father Hall has collected nearly 3,000 signatures.
Hall was described by supporters as a spiritual mainstay who ministers to the school’s athletic teams.
Recently, Derrick Gordon, the first openly gay Division I college basketball player, announced that he is transferring from UMass to Seton Hall.
He announced his intention to transfer in March, but said he was disappointed in the process, adding his sexuality became an issue as he spoke to other schools.
“During the recruiting process, a number of schools didn’t want me because I’m gay,” Gordon said. “To me, that’s blatant homophobia. At the end of the day, no coaches will ever admit that they don’t want me because I’m gay and there’s baggage that comes with the attention.
“Honestly, it caught me off-guard. It really hurt. It had me stressing, crying. I was starting to lose hope. I felt like I was being treated like an outsider, like I didn’t belong in the NCAA. I couldn’t believe it because I’m a good player and they were looking at the opposite — something that doesn’t mean anything with my (sexuality). … ‘Nah, not the gay guy.’”
In going to Seton Hall, Gordon said he would be somewhere familiar, where he has a ton of support.
And while Father Hall declined to be interviewed by CBS2 for this story – saying he did not want to take away any attention from graduating students at commencement ceremonies Monday – he expressed gratitude on Twitter for the support he himself has received.
Grateful for all the support. Dont be angry!! Turn this into an opportunity for open/reasonable discussion on LGBT issues on a Cath Campus.
— Warren Hall (@Warrmeister) May 15, 2015
“Grateful for all he support. Don’t be angry!!! Turn this into an opportunity for open/reasonable discussion on LGBT issues on a Cath Campus,” Hall tweeted.
In a statement, Seton Hall said it does not comment on personnel matters, and reiterated that it is the Archdiocese of Newark that appoints the director of its campus ministry – Father Hall’s former position.