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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Behind the systems: Former members frustrated over student’s resignation, double standards for dealing with sexual activity

Former members say rules regarding moral conduct were not applied equally

This is the second part in a four-part investigative series about the forced resignation of an LGBTQ+ student and the role of religious institutions on Western’s campus. Parts one, three and four can be found here.

As a part of the Catholic Church, the Newman Center falls under the jurisdiction of the Seattle Archdiocese, which requires all employees to live a lifestyle in accordance with Catholic teachings. // Photo courtesy of Matthew Gasper

By Nate Sanford

In Jan. 2019, Leah Adams was forced to resign her job as peer events coordinator at the Newman Center after coming out as lesbian. The job had previously been filled by Mia McFarland, who had recently graduated Western and was living in Seattle when she heard about Adams’ resignation through some of her friends who were still involved in the center.

According to McFarland, Emma Fisher, the Newman Center director, didn’t publicly announce the reason for Adam’s resignation, but anybody who went to talk to her about it on their own was told. 

“The specific wording she used with a few people was that it was a really hard decision but she had to follow the rules of the church and not make exceptions,” McFarland said. 

McFarland said several people she knew at the time were upset about what happened and chose to leave the Newman Center. She had already graduated and moved away, but said Adams’ resignation changed her perception of the Newman Center. 

“I don’t know that it’s really a safe space any more. I don’t think I would be comfortable being there,” she said. 

Several former members said Adams’ resignation came at a time when they were noticing a more conservative shift in the culture at the Newman Center. 

“It definitely sort of backed up some larger things I was noticing about the culture there that made me kinda feel like I wanted to be less involved if that was the stance that they were going to take,” said Patrick Kissinger, who still considers himself a Catholic but stopped attending the Newman Center’s events and services shortly after Adams’ resignation. 

Kissinger said that prior to Adams’ resignation, he had noticed the Newman Center moving away from some of its social justice programs, and becoming less tolerant of other religious beliefs.

Several former members of the Newman Center said the decision to remove Adams was hypocritical. 

“People aren’t disciplined for other moral clause violations,” McFarland said. “When I was working for the Newman I was a big drinker and I was getting drunk all the time, but everybody knew quite well that I was going out all the time and I was never fired or disciplined for it. Also skipping church, never fired for that.”

Another former employee said she was sexually active and frequently stayed with their partner of the opposite sex while she worked for the Catholic organization. She believes her boss was aware of this, and it was never an issue. 

Adams said she noticed similar double standards. She said one of the students at the center lived with his girlfriend and was sexually active with her. 

“[My boss] told me he wouldn’t get the job because he was living with his girlfriend, but he was hired, despite having premarital sex,” she said. 

Adams said she was also upset because her position wasn’t a religious one. Her main duties involved planning events, not teaching or leading any sort of prayer.

“She was just somebody who was happy to be there and was just working to help out. She wasn’t teaching or leading anything,” Kissinger said.

The Line-Up:

Monday: WWU Newman Center forced resignation of student employee after learning of same-sex partner

Tuesday: Former members frustrated over student’s resignation, double standards for dealing with sexual activity

Wednesday: For LGBTQ+ employees at religious organizations, a murky legal landscape on campus and in the courts

Thursday: In wake of resignation, a journey of faith and acceptance


  1. People are afraid of what they do not understand or disapprove of. The more chaotic the world gets the tighter the church tries to hold on to tradition. I am acceptable and do not find it my place to judge but I also fear what we are headed toward. A society where anything goes with out any thought to it other than personal rights. As concerns the masses, we are not a people who can control ourselves with out guidelines. Refusing to gender-ize your baby at birth? That is a biological truth and should be left to the individual to determine as they grow to maturity. Going too far? Where is the line? Adams’ forced resignation was a shameful act. It was an illegal act within the court system but church and state are separate for such reasons. It appears it is a double standard by my reading theses articles and I choose Leah Adams to support. The institution clearly shows bias and shame on you is what I am left with. Another disappointing act made by perhaps a best intention-ed human that forgot we are not perfect, we are not all the same, we are all deserving of equality and the prayer that maybe God only should be the final judge to decide who and how we all went wrong or not. The church is all of us, in our skins, minds, hearts and souls of many colors, ideas and dreams. Walk kindly in your judgement for you will be judged as you have judged. I hug you in my heart Leah for you will be made stronger through this. Amen and blessings to all of you. PJ


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