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.