A RELIGIOUS-EDUCATION director at a Montgomery County Catholic school has been dismissed because, parents say, she is lesbian wedded to a woman.

Many parents have voiced support for the educator, Margie Winters, director of religious education and outreach, calling her "inspirational" and "dedicated." Now they're directing their ire not at the school and its sponsor, the Sisters of Mercy, but at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Archbishop Charles Chaput.

"It's time to get the attention of the Archdiocese and the Catholic hierarchy and let them know this is illegal," said Katie Culver, who has three children at the school.

Parents and alumni will meet tonight to discuss the matter and "to unify in support of Margie," Culver said.

Waldron Mercy's principal, Nell Stetser, addressed Winters' dismissal in a letter Friday to parents.

"[O]ur school recognizes the authority of the Archbishop of Philadelphia, especially in the teaching of religion, because we call ourselves Catholic," she wrote.

Despite her "amazing contributions" to the school in Merion Station, the school opted not to renew Winters' contract, Stetser wrote.

"Margie certainly has enriched the lives of everyone in the WMA family . . . however, my duty is to protect our school's future," Stetser wrote.

"In the Mercy spirit, many of us accept life choices that contradict current Church teachings, but to continue as a Catholic school Waldron Mercy must comply with those teachings," she wrote.

Some parents are not buying it.

"It's not for any other reason but the fact that she is a homosexual," said Anthony Archievala, whose two daughters attend Waldron Mercy. "We were shocked because she'd been there for so many years."

A parent wrote to school officials and the Archdiocese suggesting that Winters use the "Theology of the Body," a series of addresses by Pope John Paul II, in the school curriculum, and Winters said no, Culver said.

Efforts yesterday to reach the parent were unsuccessful.

Archdiocese spokesman Ken Gavin released a statement denying that the church was involved in Winters' ouster.

"Waldron is a private Catholic school and it is not in any way under the administrative purview of the Archdiocese," he said. "As such, personnel decisions at that school are made locally without oversight from the Archdiocese."

Winters began to work for the school in August 2007, according to her LinkedIn page. She did not respond to requests for comment.

Winters' old job is already listed under employment opportunities on Waldron Mercy's website.

Many parents point to the school's diversity - 30 percent of students are of other religions, for example - in arguing Winters' release. "This community is rooted in acceptance and tolerance," Culver said. "It's centered on the mission of mercy. Margie is the core of that whole mission of mercy."

Parent Maureen Kenney said Winters is "gifted in ministry, counseling and spiritual direction."

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