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Catholic school shamed in gay row

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Lauren Brown, 27, above, was offered a job as a school counselor by St Mary’s Academy in Portland, but the offer was rescinded after the school learned she was a lesbian.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.

Flowers adorned a statue outside St Mary's Academy yesterday

Flowers adorned a statue outside St Mary’s Academy yesterday

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

14 responses to “Catholic school shamed in gay row”

  1. Drat says:

    A large proportion of rcc priests and cardinals are homosexuals …
    And don’t forget the rcc peadophilic element.
    RCC – bigotry writ large and in plain view.

  2. SSM says:

    Riiight, because bigotry is essential to the Catholic identity?

  3. L.Long says:

    Really the RCC made a big mistake. They should have told the girl she is an abomination and to piss off. And fought for the right to get their way!
    Is this moral, most certainly, as it is in their dogma and in their book o’BS that this is good and right! Bigotry is just fine with most if not all religious and dogmatic institutions. It is about time that people as a whole realize that ALL religious or dogmatic peoples are pure BIGOTS!!! about something.
    Religious organizations should be TAXED like any other charity or non-profit, that way they are open to scrutiny and we can then see how crooked they are. They are also ‘private clubs’ and as long as they are not running a business open to the general public they are or should be allowed to do most anything they wish. To enforce their BS, a catlick hospital should have a sign in where you have to show you are a catlick; but if you are are treating the public at large then your BS is just BS and they should keep it to themselves and they should be TAXED like any other hospital.. It is the ONLY hospital!! So! Build one for everyone else
    This will allow many to see what they are and what type of people are in them. There is nothing like public viewing to get people to act right.

  4. Trevor Blake says:

    “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.”

    I would guess that describes the contract for employment at a Roman Catholic school. Another case of a person who knows what is expected of those who join a religion but who then thinks the rules don’t apply to them. I like the weakening of religion, but I can’t tell if religion draws confused people or makes confused people or both.

  5. Tim says:

    Trevor, I think the contract she was referring to was the settlement agreement that offered $41k in exchange for a gag order forbidding her to publically discuss her case.

    Not every parochial school has the same policies on LBGT employees, and not all of them require their staff to sign articles of faith. Thus, “what is expected of them” is not universally consistent.

  6. Vanity Unfair says:

    I wonder. Did the job advert and application form have the usual “…promoting the customs and values of the RC religion…” clause and was that in the employment contract too?
    Then there is Miss Brown’s aim: “my passion for advocating for LGBT youth and LGBT people” which is somewhat restricting in a post that must involve being an advocate for all the students in her care and not only those sharing her own minority status.
    I still think that the school board acted wrongly but she must surely not have been surprised that the board rescinded the job offer after discovering her sexuality.
    And exactly how did the school board discover her sexuality? Did she inform the board? (“Brown reportedly told the St. Mary’s administration that she was gay” according to the NY Daily News.) Was she informed against? Perhaps it was a notorious fact in her neighbourhood. Was this before or after contract completion? All these have different implications.
    However, one fact stands; at one point the board concluded that she was the best person for the job and later changed its mind. The board obviously realised this put it in the wrong, hence the settlement offer and the gagging clause.
    The excuse that “as a Catholic high school we are obligated to follow current Catholic teachings regarding same-sex marriage in our employment practices” does not hold if it means disregarding the law of the land and, as I understand it, same-sex marriages are now legal in the USA so prejudice based on such relationships must be excluded too.

  7. AgentCormac says:

    @Vanity Unfair
    You raise some excellent points. And while the Academy’s board have decided, for whatever reason, to change their school’s policy on hiring gay employees, I almost wish they hadn’t. They don’t mean it. They don’t agree with it. They have taken that path either to avert litigation or to avoid unfavourable publicity. So (please excuse the biblical reference) they haven’t had some ‘road to Damascus’ change of heart, they have merely made some consession to offset the potential fallout. Which to my mind is not only hypocritical, but also obfuscates the underlying bigotry, intransigence and hatered which permeates their particular brand of religion. It would have been preferable, I would say, that they had stayed true to their principles so people can see them for the unpalatable, unacceptable, intransigent sect they really are, and then judge them upon it.

  8. Broga says:

    ” but the offer was rescinded after the school learned she was a lesbian.” I wonder how many nuns are lesbians. If their offer was rescinded I reckon the nunneries, or what is left of them, would be denuded.

  9. AgentCormac says:

    @Broga
    Apparently, more young women in Britain are now choosing to become nuns than has been the case for 25 years. Why? As you’ll see from the article linked to below, most of them turn to the convent because they are incapable of sustaining human relationships, so instead they turn to one with a zombie called Jesus who will never let them down because he doesn’t actually exist. Terribly sad really, but they seem to think it’s done them the world of good – so, I guess, who are we to judge them? Well, if only they kept their nonsensical superstitions to themselves I couldn’t give a toss. But they don’t, do they?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-32777639

  10. Brummie says:

    Too true Agent C.

  11. Brummie says:

    I was “taught” by nuns as an infant. Indoctrination – it should be illegal.

  12. John the Drunkard says:

    If they don’t support Catholic dogma, why on earth to they continue to support the Church?

  13. barriejohn says:

    If they don’t support Catholic dogma, why on earth to they continue to support the Church?

    Exactly, but it’s all down to the power of religious belief. One can only hope that she is eventually able to free herself from reliance upon this “drug”, but it took me years to break free myself, and then it was more due to conflict over the intellectual dishonesty of belief than the fact that I was living a lie as a homosexual man (all part of “living a lie”, I know). I knew a gay couple in Sussex who were regular worshippers at Chichester Cathedral, and who were “united” in a ceremony there, much to the delight of the partner who was really religious and was a devoted lay officer of the church (he sadly died of a brain tumour – God does have a peculiar sense of humour). All very ironic in the light of later events, but nothing will shake the religious faith of some:

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/13/bishops-peter-ball-arrest-chichester-child-abuse

    (The abuse that went on throughout the diocese was unbelievable, and the CofE confessed to having covered it up.)