Pilot who offered flights to women for medical care fired from seminary job | Abortion #Pilot #offered #flights #women #medical #care #fired #seminary #job #Abortion

About three weeks after the US supreme court last year struck down the federal right to abortion, Greg Williams, a volunteer pilot for a group that provides free flights to people who need to travel for medical care, posted a Facebook message.

“If any women need to make an unexpected trip from the south to, say, Illinois or New Mexico or Virginia for reasons that are none of my business, I can provide safe, private air transport that would get you where you need to go and back the same day at a price that will work for you,” Williams wrote, on 28 June 2022.

Williams acknowledges the message mentioned an area which has largely outlawed abortion and three states which have acted to preserve access. The post did not explicitly mention abortion – because Williams’s day job was teaching Greek and Latin at a college for prospective Catholic priests near New Orleans.

The Benedictine-run St Joseph Seminary College has a policy against publicly expressing beliefs contrary to the established teachings of the Catholic church, which stridently opposes abortion. Despite the fact that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, according to recent polling, Williams wanted to comply with school policy. It didn’t matter. The school fired him a week later.

“Your Facebook post publicly and deliberately advocated a position contrary to the official teaching of the Catholic Church,” said the termination letter that St Joseph’s rector, Gregory Boquet, gave Williams on 5 July. “The decision is to terminate your employment … effective immediately.”

Williams, 40, has no real legal recourse to compel St Joseph to rehire him, according to lawyers he consulted and attorneys interviewed by the Guardian. Louisiana is an at-will employment state, which means employers can dismiss workers for any reason that is not blatantly unconstitutional.

Two New Orleans attorneys said it would be relatively viable to argue that Williams’s Facebook post should qualify as constitutionally protected political speech. But Megan Kiefer and Chris Williams both said the seminary could persuasively argue its constitutional right to religious freedom, expressed through its policy, trumped Greg Williams’s right to political speech.

Greg Williams said he was now speaking up about the end of his seven-year tenure at St Joseph to shine a light on the harsh reality of at-will employment.

He said he found the college hypocritical, because it is part of a church which spent decades trying to suppress information about child sexual abuse by its clerics. The archdiocese which includes St Joseph, and which serves about half a million Catholics, has identified more than 80 priests and deacons strongly suspected of abusing minors.

“It’s a hell of a thing to have [the church] have an official letter addressed to me saying I’m doing heinous evil,” Williams said. “It’s like – what are you talking about?”

Williams became a licensed pilot in 2009 and a couple of years later began flying for Pilots for Patients, a nonprofit. Williams’s role mostly sees him fly people with cancer for chemotherapy and radiation treatments not available to them locally. He only knows what medical care passengers are receiving if they choose to tell him.

Christian but not Catholic, he landed a role teaching at St Joseph, near Covington, Louisiana, in 2015. The seminary had no problems with his volunteer work or other things that set his lifestyle apart from those of his students, including that he planned to start a family with his wife, Macey.

But then the supreme court handed down its abortion ruling, in the Dobbs v Jackson case. As an Episcopalian, Williams said, he wishes he lived in “a world where abortion isn’t needed any more” because he believes life begins at conception and therefore a terminated pregnancy is “a terrible tragedy”.

“But that’s just not the world we live in,” he added. “And my personal belief about abortion is, I’m not going to be in that position as a man, and there’s all kinds of stuff that might lead somebody to make that decision.”

Williams said his role at St Joseph did not present opportunities to impose his personal beliefs on his students, and he wouldn’t have done so even if it were possible. When, weeks after the Dobbs ruling, he decided to offer to fly any women in need of out-of-town medical care, he did so on a private Facebook page.

Initial reactions were positive.

“Your heart is gold,” one woman wrote.

A man said: “You sir are a damn hero.”

But soon someone filed a complaint with St Joseph, accusing Williams of undermining official Catholic teaching and causing “a public scandal”.

The complainant’s identity has never been shared with Williams, whose termination letter was emailed by Boquet, the school rector. The same day, Williams’s academic dean provided a glowing recommendation for his search for a new job.

“In all of his courses he was evaluated with the top 10% of our faculty,” read the recommendation letter from Daniel Burns, who described Williams as “a dynamic lecturer” and “infectiously passionate”.

The letter added: “I personally will miss his engaging conversation and his ability to speak competently across disciplines.”

St Joseph officials did not respond to requests for comment.

Williams said he found new work at an Episcopalian church. Since his dismissal from St Joseph, he said, he had flown about 15 people through Pilots for Patients.

He noted a couple of ironies. None of those people told him they were in need of an abortion. And for all of St Joseph’s talk favoring life, he said, the only thing delaying his plans to have a baby with Macey has been the school’s decision to fire him.

“Having lost my job … I can’t afford it,” Williams said. “You want to talk about pro-life? They’ve literally prevented me and my wife from starting a family.”

#Pilot #offered #flights #women #medical #care #fired #seminary #job #Abortion

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