Mar 112010

I walk in to work every evening and see several motivational posters and signs that are meant to inspire me to work harder and better. One of these signs reads to the effect of “No individual is more or less than the team.” And I glare at this sign and want to rip it down every time I walk past it. I have always preferred Rudyard Kipling’s “The strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

What Rudyard Kipling conveyed in this statement is the importance of both society and the individual. It’s a sentiment that I strongly agree with, that the two ought to progress hand in hand. Humanity has become an impressive thing, made living conditions for a lot of people absolutely amazing through society and technology. And the countries really thriving right now are those that give the most to the rights of the individual.

Paganism tends toward a belief in individualism and individual rights. We tend to be open-minded and respectful of those different from ourselves and we prefer equality for all. So we tend to get outraged when other people do jerky things to other people, and with good reason, even if we do acknowledge that they often have the right to do these things. Read Duane’s post from yesterday for his take on this.

And we get outraged when a Catholic school denies a child re-entry because the parents are lesbians. I understand the outrage; I share it. I believe in gay rights, I celebrate news such as Mexico City legalizing gay marriage. But once I move past the knee-jerk frustration with this situation, I have to accept that this is a private school expressing its belief.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput posted a response to this situation, and he pointed out that “The main purpose of Catholic schools is religious; in other words, to form students in Catholic faith, Catholic morality and Catholic social values. “ He also stated:

“The Church does not claim that people with a homosexual orientation are “bad,” or that their children are less loved by God. Quite the opposite. But what the Church does teach is that sexual intimacy by anyone outside marriage is wrong; that marriage is a sacramental covenant; and that marriage can only occur between a man and a woman. These beliefs are central to a Catholic understanding of human nature, family and happiness, and the organization of society. The Church cannot change these teachings because, in the faith of Catholics, they are the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

Private Catholic schools were created with the exact intention that Chaput stated: to educate children better in Catholic belief. It only makes sense, then, that a private Catholic school can enforce that those who attend exemplify a Catholic lifestyle. (John Tomasic points out in an interesting article in the Colorado Independent the flaw with defining what a Catholic lifestyle is.)

Every private institution has a mission and a code of conduct, and they choose very carefully the members they admit. It is their right as a private institution. As pagans, I think it’s up to us to defend the rights of these private institutions, even if we don’t agree with them. We may not like what they have to teach, but we don’t have to send our kids there.

Considering what’s going on with Repent Amarillo and the New Apostolic Reformation (both of which I also completely abhor), it’s an incredibly dangerous line we’re treading. Upholding the rights of those we don’t agree with is dangerous for us, because we cannot expect the same behavior from these groups. They’re not content to let us be or to uphold our own rights. And here is where we have to trust our government to grow and be able to uphold the rights of the individual. It’s a scary thing to do, but I most definitely believe that is the job of this government to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

I look forward to the day when humans won’t be having this discussion, when we’ll be more accepting of the LGBT community. But until then, I can’t deny a private institution its right to decide who is allowed to attend, even if I think that reason is utter nonsense.

  16 Responses to “Private Institutions”

  1. On one hand, I agree. On another I don’t.

    I don’t agree that any private institution has any such rights under all circumstances.

    What about if a restaurant has a sign in the front window that says, “Whites Only”.

    There is the question of corporate free speech that just came down from SCOTUS about election law.

    I draw the line here: Religious groups should be protected to impress their beliefs so far as it is interior, and only their money (no govt money).

    I think this is because of the religious clause of the first amendment, not the speech clause.

    I believe free speech is solely an individual right. Case in point, the FCC can censor public broadcasts.

    Religious groups, as well as the press, get specific free passes for specific reasons.

    I do not extend every corporate body that same luxury, personally.

    If you want to personally be racist (speech), write a racist book (press), start a racist church (religion), then that is a right even if society objects.

    But if you want to start a racist diner, no no no. That is NOT a right, so says the EEOC. Catholic schools tread a very fine line. Notre Dame is a Catholic college. But just imagine if a senior was kicked out because his parents were gay.

    Of course, they accept. Public loan financing. This private school may not. By doing this, the guarantee that they never will either.

    • In theory, I agree with your statement and amend my thoughts on this. But what’s the difference between starting a racist religion or a racist school and a racist bookstore? How do we draw the line in private institutions, and who decides what that line is?

      • The line should hinge on the legality of such actions. If it is perfectly legal to remove a student because his parents are gay, then what the school did was fine. Private institutions do not get a “free pass” to commit illicit acts, no matter what “religion” is expressed. Can you imagine the sheer pandemonium if freedom of religious expression was an absolute right?

    • A restaurant is a “public accommodation” or something like that, so it isn’t able to post such a sign, but it would be able to post a sign stating: “Members Only”

      A religious school with such policies cannot be given government money meant for Public Education. Yet such crap is done every year by people who come up with creative excuses for why THEIR religious school deserves to be singled out to get taxpayer money for their own indoctrination processes.

  2. I think that the Catholic school has the right to deny the girl re-entry IF the Catholic school is not receiving any public funds. If they receive (or start receiving) public funds, then they need to abide by the rules that govern said funds, and that includes not being able to deny the student re-entry.

    Actually, even if they aren’t receiving public funds, they may be in difficulty, because the student herself isn’t a lesbian, her parents are.

  3. You make an excellent point and I agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s unfortunate, though, when this sort of victory within their private institution falsely inspires them to try and extend such beliefs outward into the public sphere. It’s likely that the problem is that various religious organizations have had firm grips on areas of the government for some time and, consequently, the rights of the private lives of American people- ultimately making them believe that they, and not the government, have more say over the direction of society than the actual society itself.

  4. I agree with Pam’s point above, that a case could be made that they are taking action against the student for someone else’s behavior, and that smacks of punitive petty bigotry, not any concern for orthodoxy. There are plenty of parents who send their kids to private (usually Catholic) schools for the superior accreditation and curriculum, not because they’re Catholic. Have they refused any students whose parents are of a faith that does not conform to Catholic practice?

    If a court rules that it’s legal for the school to toss her out, especially this close to the end of the school year, some provision should be made so that her educational standing doesn’t suffer for her expulsion. And I hope several other schools climb over each other to be first in line to admit her.

    • That should have been phrased “this far in the school year, given the admissions processing time for many private schools”.

    • Ummm . . . it’s a Catholic PRE-school . . .

      • Yep – and she’s being denied re-enrollment. That means she was accepted, then refused. On paper, that makes it look like there was a problem with her, like maybe she was a disciplinary problem; a repeat biter, etc.

        Many private pre-schools have waiting lists for acceptance, and parents are getting told to get their kids pre-booked as early as birth with some schools. Finding another one now for fall enrollment is going to be a fun chore.

      • actually, it’s a pre-school through 9th grade so this would potentially affect the child’s entire education up until high school.

  5. Groups like to hide behind the “private” banner as a shield against having to behave in a manner which is acceptable to society overall. Thus we continue on occassion to hear of private clubs and organizations which practice racial discrimination, having somehow managed to stay beneath the radar, yet changing their behaviors or just shutting themselves down once the light is shed upon them.

    The Catholic answer to pediphile priests was to try to make it’s victims just shut up about it and allow the “proper church authorities” to deal with the manner, which amounted to wrist slapping and transfers of these monsters from one diocese to another. And THESE people have the gall to exclude a child from a school because her parents love differently than the Church allows. Yes, when you use the “private” shield, it’s amazing the monstrous behaviors that can go on beneath the radar, or the hypocracy that can go unchallenged.

    The ultra-right-wing versions of Mormons have also tried to escape acceptable behaviors by cutting themselves off from the society on whole, so that they can practice their “devinely inspired” forms of pediphilia and sexual slavery.

    Say what you want about “private” institutions having some inherent right to behave as they see fit just because they are exclusive clubs that do not depend on public funding. That is a prescription for Jamestown and every other possibility that can occur without the proper restraint of public scrutiny and restraint.

  6. I’ve finally had a chance to see the article, and I am finally clearer in my own mind on why I have such an issue with this. Here is the school/archdiocese policy, as quoted in the linked article:

    “No person shall be admitted as a student in any Catholic school unless that person and his/her parent(s) subscribe to the school’s philosophy and agree to abide by the educational policies and regulations of the school and Archdiocese.”

    According to the article, legal experts say this policy is completely legal.

    I’m no legal expert, but I would say this is true as long as they are applying this standard equally to EVERYONE who is not in accordance with Catholic teaching. This would mean that they have to kick out any child with parents who aren’t married, children of parents who divorced but did not get their marriages annulled, children of lapsed Catholics, children of parents who eat meat on Fridays in Lent, children of parents who receive Communion without going to Confession, children of parents in unfaithful marriages…..

    Otherwise, the lesbian parents could rightly claim discrimination based on the fact that their child is kicked out for their violation of Catholic teaching but other children whose parents are in violation are not being kicked out. If they claimed that the archdiocese was not applying this policy equally, I think they would have a case.

    • well I don’t know if it’s different now but when I went there (1979-1989) I went to school with kids whose parents were not Catholic, some were divorced (although not very many), one kid’s mom worked at planned parenthood, I had a *teacher* who was pro choice for heavens sake! So if things aren’t different now, then I would say the parents might have a case….

      Although why someone would want to subject their child to that hell hole is beyond me…….