Catholic school shamed in gay row
Earlier this year Lauren Brown, 27, above, was offered a job as a school counselor by St Mary’s Academy in Portland, but the offer was rescinded after the school learned she was a lesbian.
Brown, 27, was offered over $41,000 plus benefits if she was to scuttle off and keep schtum about her rejection and the financial settlement offered. But she refused to sign a confidentiality agreement, and St Mary’s found itself in the midst of a shitstorm.
Brown said here.
To sign a contract that’s going to affect the rest of my life, and my passion for advocating for LGBT youth and LGBT people – there’s no way I could sign that. I could never live with myself.
Students, according to this report, expressed their anger over Brown’s disgraceful treatment, and a major donor – Tim Boyle, CEO of Columbia Sportswear – condemned the school board’s action, saying in a statement that he and his wife had been “extremely disappointed” and believed the original decision should be reversed.
Recently, one of us participated in a successful public forum hosted by St Mary’s addressing how to prepare St Mary’s students for the work force of the future. The news this week is an example of how not to prepare students.
There is no place in the workplace of today, or of the future, for discriminating against an individual based on sexual orientation.
About a dozen students showed up on Wednesday morning to decorate a statue outside the school with rainbow heart glasses and a St Mary’s hoodie with “FREE TO BE ME” taped on the front. The teens said the decision didn’t reflect the social justice values of St Mary’s.
Online, opponents quickly adopted the hashtag #FightForSMA and organised protests via Facebook.
The board then voted on Wednesday night to change the school’s policy on hiring gay employees, probably because it dawned on them that their decision could cost them dear in lost donations.
Earlier, Archbishop Alexander Sample, head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Portland, said he supported the school’s action to rescind Brown’s job offer:
We expect that given certain reassurances by the federal government in the wake of the recent Supreme Court ruling making ‘same-sex unions’ the law of the land, our religious liberty would be protected in this case as well as any future cases of this sort.
Defending the school’s original decision, academy President Christina Friedhoff said:
St Mary’s nurtures the Catholic identity, practice, culture and mission on which we were founded. We understand that others may hold different values, and we respect the right of individuals in society to do so.
At the same time, as a Catholic high school we are obligated to follow current Catholic teachings regarding same-sex marriage in our employment practices.
Administrators have filled the position they originally offered to Brown, Friedhoff said, but will be reaching out to Brown and her attorney to discuss options for reconciliation.
The board’s climbdown could now, according to this report, lead to conflict between the school, Archbishop Sample and the Catholic Church.
Hat tip: Trevor Blake and BarrieJohn